A very long time ago, at the beginning of summer 2017, I found that I was almost absolutely broke. I was nearly completely though my last paycheck from my on campus job as an editor for my university’s newspaper, and since I wouldn’t be working while school wasn’t in session, I knew another one wasn’t coming my way.
So the relentless job application process began; I applied to almost every single place that was hiring. My friends would send me pictures of stores with “now hiring” signs displayed in the window, and I would immediately take all of those chances. There came a time, about three weeks in, that I was certain no one would ever call me for an interview; that maybe my resume painted me as a horrible, incapable individual with absolutely no work experience.
Then all at once, I got a phone call from not just one, but two places that wanted to schedule an interview: Ross and Chipotle.
Long story short, I interviewed at Ross first and they said they would give me a call. The very next day I interviewed at Chipotle, and I was hired on the spot. I didn’t wait around for that second call from Ross, which didn't come until a couple of weeks later; I immediately accepted the job as a cashier at Chipotle.
A big mistake on my part was not having any expectations, as in, I didn’t properly brace myself. As a teenage girl just looking to make some extra money, I kind of had this cavalier attitude that my first job wasn’t going to be at all impactful. Needless to say, I was completely wrong.
Working at Chipotle ended up being one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done in my life. That’s not to say I’ve never been properly stressed out before because I certainly have, but not quite in the same way that working at one of the most popular fast-casual restaurants in the country provides.
If you work at Chipotle, you have to know how to manage almost perfectly under high stress. If you don’t know how, well then you better learn, because the smallest mistakes can be the hardest to bounce back from.
During the night shift from 3 PM to 10:45 that I worked, I experienced the worst of peak hour. Peak usually runs from 5 PM to around 7:30 PM, and during that time, it is not unusual to have a line out the door. As cashier, it was my job to: ring up customers, keep the outside and inside dining room clean by wiping down tables and sweeping floors, restock the drink station with forks, napkins, and lids at all times, take out the trash cans, clean the windows, clean the bathrooms, sanitize trays and baskets, keep my fridge stocked, and of course, always ask the customers how they’re doing.
There are probably a few other duties that I missed, but in general, you absolutely always have to be on your feet and moving. If that line is out the door, I can’t just be standing at the cash register, I have to quickly move to the dining room and try to do as much as I can by the time the next customer reaches salsa. Where I worked, there were some disagreements among the managers about if I should stay where I’m at, or do dining when we have a long line. For some reason, this lead to me being asked why I was “standing there doing nothing”, or when I got up to do dining, why I was “leaving my spot when clearly we have a huge line.” But I guess that’s what you get yourself into sometimes.
But basically, it was pretty much my responsibility to make sure the store was looking perfect at all times. “Perfect” isn’t exaggerating either, because I had to make sure everything was completely neat all the way down to how the chairs are lined up at the dining tables. If I was working the closing shift, there was a laundry list of things to get done before clocking out. So even though Chipotle closes at 10 PM, I could be there until past 11 PM if things start to pile up. In complete honesty, I did feel a great deal of frustration when people walk in at 9:50 because I would have to drop whatever I was doing in order to ring them up, but I guess that’s the beauty of fast food, right?
Yet when people hear you work at Chipotle, you might get a few dirty looks. It is well known that the restaurant’s reputation has been somewhat tarnished by the norovirus and E.Coli outbreaks of the past. But I can honestly say that at this point in time, there is no cleaner place that you can eat at than Chipotle. The company seriously cracks down on rules for the employees when it comes to sanitation.
In retrospect, I probably washed my hands at least fifty times a shift. Whenever I left the counter to attend to the dining room, I would have to wash my hands thoroughly when I came back. Even if I was just outside the counter for a few seconds, I couldn’t touch anything until my hands were washed. Of course, no food can be handled without gloves, and neither can forks and other utensils when stocking up. All sanitation buckets are changed at the top of the hour, and if you pick up something from the ground, wash your hands. Absolutely no touching the customers, and if they touch a tray or basket, you have to completely wash and sanitize it before putting it back. No touching your face or hair, and if you do, wash your hands. If you hand the customer their burrito and they hand it back because the “barbacoa is too spicy”, the you have to throw the whole item away and make them a new one. I didn’t even really handle food as a cashier, but I knew that the rules are even more strict for the people who work at the back of the house. As a former employee, I can assess that all food at Chipotle is handled with tender love and care, and of course, cleanliness. No norovirus here!
The thing that taught me the most working at Chipotle, however, was the tough love. I’m definitely not perfect, but my entire life, I was always capable of doing things well with enough practice. At Chipotle, mistakes are a daily thing, and they come down on you hard for them. There are no “second chances,” you have to learn from each mistake that you make and there really are no excuses. I’ll admit that there were times when I felt extremely discouraged because of the mistakes I made, but it ended up being quite humbling. Maybe some of my coworkers saw me as incompetent, as demonstrated by some of the eye-rolls I would catch in my peripheral, but I think I ended up learning a lot from my experience at Chipotle. Sure, I would come home at night with a sore back and smelling like burritos, but it taught me about the value of hard work.
After two months of working as cashier, I put my two-weeks notice in for various reasons, but I maintain nothing but respect for Chipotle and the people who work there. Many of my coworkers and managers were some of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met, completely passionate about maintaining excellence. So when you go to Chipotle for your burrito fix, know that the employees there are doing everything with heart instead of just treating it like a menial task.