Chipotle tells staff to skip chicken as demand surges for Chicken al Pastor

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Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is telling its employees not to put chicken on their own meals, as surging customer demand has crimped supply.

The reintroduction of Chicken al Pastor has been a huge success, creating challenges, the company told US employees in an email last week.

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“Due to its sustained strong sales we need your help to keep up with our guests’ demand for this popular protein option,” according to the message from Chief Restaurant Officer Scott Boatwright, which was viewed by Bloomberg News.

Store managers were told not to order their free or discounted employee meals with chicken or Chicken al Pastor, and to ask their team members to do the same. The email also instructed white-collar staff at Chipotle offices that they “should not” order chicken for themselves and said the popular option wouldn’t be included in their free Monday lunches.

The message, bearing the subject line “Let’s Conserve Our Fan-Favorite Chicken,” said the changes were effective immediately and would last until further notice. The goal is to “preserve our supply of Adobo Chicken for our guests,” it read.

Resolution Pending


In an emailed statement, Chipotle said the message was a request and not a mandate.

“Due to the high demand for chicken in our restaurants and sustained success of our limited time offer Chicken al Pastor, we temporarily asked all of our employees at corporate and in-restaurants to select another protein option for their meals to preserve our supply,” Chief Corporate Affairs and Food Safety Officer Laurie Schalow said. “We expect this situation to be resolved within a week.”

Chipotle’s chicken directive has roiled some workers.

“It’s disrespectful, just on a personal level,” said Harper McNamara, an employee in Michigan at the company’s only unionized US store.

Managers have been threatening to discipline workers who get chicken during their lunch breaks, and in some cases have thrown out chicken meals made for them, employees there said. In some cases it’s the only meat workers can eat, for reasons including health and religion, they said.

Chipotle is putting managers in an unfair position by requiring them to enforce the new policy, said Atulya Dora-Laskey, who like McNamara is a member of the bargaining committee at the Lansing, Michigan, store.

The abrupt chicken change, even if temporary, illustrates the need for a union contract that secures workers’ benefits, she said.

Workers at the store voted to unionize with the Teamsters in August 2022, but haven’t yet reached a collective bargaining agreement with the company. The two sides remain far apart on some issues, including minimum staffing for the store, they said.

Marketing Success


The company highlighted Chicken al Pastor Wednesday as one of its “successful marketing initiatives,” along with Braised Beef Barbacoa, that helped fuel a 7 percent first quarter increase in comparable restaurant sales over last year.

“Obviously, we love what Chicken al Pastor does for us,” Chief Executive Officer Brian Niccol said on the company’s earnings call.

In last week’s email, Boatwright suggested employees “see this as an opportunity to enjoy our other real, delicious protein options, such as Steak or Carnitas.”

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