Chipotle hit with labor shortage as workers contract COVID

The chain’s CEO said he expects the problem to worsen as the pandemic surges.
Photo courtesy of Chipotle

Chipotle Mexican Grill has had to temporarily close or limit the hours at a “very small number of restaurants” due to a growing number of workers contracting the coronavirus, the chain said Monday.

And Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said he expects the labor shortage to worsen as the pandemic surges.

“When employees start coming down with COVID at these high percentages, it just makes staffing much more challenging than what it was six months ago,” Niccol told Bloomberg News. “The coming months, I think, are going to be even more challenging from a staffing standpoint.”

Currently, most states around the country are seeing climbing coronavirus rates.

“The health and safety of our employees and guests is our top priority,” Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs and food safety officer, said in an email to Restaurant Business. “With more restrictions being instituted due to rising cases of COVID-19 across the country, we’re seeing a very small number of restaurants impacted by available labor. Therefore, we’ve had to adjust hours or close for a limited period of time when staff from neighboring locations was unavailable.”

Last month, 25-unit Applebee’s franchisee Wisconsin Apple declared bankruptcy, citing, among other factors, its struggle to keep restaurants open after employees tested positive for COVID-19.

McDonald's has been hit with two Occupational Safety and Health Administration complaints from workers at a Chicago location who say they were forced to continue working after six employees caught the coronavirus, according to a Business Insider report Monday. Two McDonald's workers from the restaurant in the complaint died of the virus, according to the report. 

During its Q3 earnings call Monday, Wingstop said that all of its nearly 1,500 dining rooms remain closed to protect the safety of employees and customers.

“As we’ve seen a recent uptick in COVID-19 infections, I think it demonstrates that our strategy we affectionately call FILO, which is ‘first to close our dining rooms, last to open’ is a demonstration that not only are we making sure that we’re running great carryout and digital and off-premise business for our guests, but at the same time, we’re respecting the importance of safety,” CEO Charlie Morrison told analysts.

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