In fact, Ells said that while half of Chipotle's restaurants earn an A or a B on the company's internal grading scale, "about half" of the restaurants fall into the C, D, F category -- the majority being Cs, especially locations in Northeast markets like New York and Boston.
Although a C is, of course, a passing grade, these locations often fall short in areas like providing clean dining rooms, maintaining neat and organized drink stations, and perhaps most importantly, fast service. He claims the lapse is largely due to restaurant managers and crew members becoming overwhelmed by new procedures.
"Typically, there are about eight significant operational changes or upgrades throughout a year -- historically, that’s about what we do -- and that’s a lot for our teams," Ells said. "Post crisis, we threw 80 changes at them, so it was very very difficult, and turnover went up. We had higher turnover, the jobs became more difficult for our managers and our crew members, and I think we took our eye off the ball on the customer service side."
The burrito executive said the company is addressing the lapse in customer service by strengthening its management teams in some regions and allowing restaurant staff to focus on training.
"We have addressed that specifically, though, with new management teams. But I think there’s a great opportunity in these C restaurants to have an experience that’s going to bring people back more frequently and help with this recovery," he said. "We see it working and this is something that just recently -- this is a recent turning point. So I expect that this could happen very quickly, and that’s the good news."