- At least 5 workers at a Chipotle in Austin, Texas told Insider they quit on November 14.
- The location's former general manager said the store was too understaffed to meet the demand for food orders.
- Chipotle said the Austin location was closed November 15 "due to available labor," but reopened the following day.
A group of five Chipotle employees, including a general manager and kitchen manager, quit their jobs at the end of their shifts on November 14 after working under "impossible" conditions, they told Insider.
Peter Guerra, a Chipotle veteran of five years and general manager for six months, worked at the Scofield Farms Chipotle location in Austin, Texas.
"My store was severely understaffed, we struggled just to keep our heads above water," with less and less support from management, Guerra said. He said he was regularly scheduled to work 80 hours a week, but often had to work additional hours to cover for employees who quit and left gaps in staffing.
Chipotle stores operate with two food prep lines: one for customers who order on-site and another for digital orders. Some Chipotle workers have previously told Insider that it's hard to keep up with the rapid rate at which digital orders stack up.
Guerra said the constant pressure to serve so many customers at once made it seem like he was being set up by the company's leadership to fail.
He said he started to hit his breaking point on Saturday, November 13, when digital orders were piling up while a line of customers stretched to the door. He said he didn't have enough workers to meet demand, so he closed the dining room to focus only on digital orders.
He was "in tears" at the thought of facing the same pressure the next day when only one other person was scheduled to work, he said. He had to close the dining room that day, as well.
At the end of his shift on Sunday, November 14, Guerra said he quit.
"I thought, 'this is literally going to kill me if I keep it up,'" Guerra said.
Kitchen manager James Williams also quit that Sunday after working 16 hours on his last day, he told Insider. Trying to manage both the dining room and kitchen, "I was stretched infinitely too thin," he said. When he and Guerra made the decision to close the dining room, both said customers were sympathetic.
"They could see the burnout on our faces," Guerra said of customers who were in line when the store closed. Digital orders continued to come in, and DoorDash drivers were also understanding and told workers to take their time, Williams said. Both told Insider that they finished their shifts and cleaned up the store, before leaving around 1 a.m.
"Everyone that didn't clock in the next day was assumed to have quit," Williams told Insider. "It was a ghosting process."
A total of five employees of the Austin location confirmed to Insider that they quit on November 14. Chipotle declined to comment on staffing at the store but said that the location is now open.
"The Parmer Lane location was temporarily closed on Monday due to available labor, but reopened Tuesday with normal business hours," a spokesperson told Insider. As of Thursday, November 18, the restaurant still did not appear to be accepting online orders.
"In a few minor instances, there have been challenges with available labor so we made adjustments in these restaurants to temporarily accommodate the needs of the business," the spokesperson said.
Chipotle, like the broader restaurant industry, has seen instances recently of workers walking out and quitting as a symptom of what's referred to as a labor shortage. Business owners say they're unable to find staff and cases even cite a lack of desire to work, while workers say they can demand better pay and benefits in the tight labor market. This mismatch has led to restaurants decreasing hours and closing dining rooms.
Many workers have said they feel they have no choice but to leave these demanding service jobs.
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