Business of Well-being

Chipotle Mexican Grill - A Study in Sustainable Wellness

In 2010, Chipotle, a restaurant provider of "food with integrity," wanted to develop a wellness program to change company culture. The wellness program chosen through the company's healthcare provider garnered dismal employee participation and engagement.

Chipotle had wanted to build a culture of wellness that matched its menu; that is, a program that everyone would believe in and value. This required an innovative, multi-faceted strategy that would:

  1. Increase engagement in the wellness program
  2. Create a culture of happy, healthy and highly productive employees
  3. Reduce lifestyle risk factors, such as obesity, sedentariness and stress
  4. Save on health costs by adopting national trends as the benchmark

The Solution

Chipotle believed that to develop the best program, the company needed a partner with expertise in wellness-specific programs. To do this, Chipotle partnered with a wellness consulting firm to devise and implement an effective and comprehensive strategy that was broken down into three, one-year increments.

YEAR 1: Employee Education & Awareness

YEAR 2: Employee Participation & Engagement

YEAR 3: Results-Based Wellness When building out the wellness framework, Chipotle implemented three best practices:

  • Visible senior leadership support
  • Creative and meaningful incentive design
  • Effective communications

Each year, more and more employees are registering, engaging in wellness challenges, and getting healthier results - plus employee incentives can add up to $1,400 off annual medical premiums when an employee and spouse participates. Employees can earn additional wellness points by joining challenges, setting goals and attending workshops; all of which result in not only feeling better, but having more energy.

Employees can also win Chipotle wellness gear, and related incentives, such as Jawbone. Chipotle and the consulting firm created a customized program that matched the company's culture, goals, resources and incentive design.

Dubbed "Chipotle My Total Well-Being," the most effective and engaging challenge thus far has been the Fitness Rally, which is now an annual event backed by strong leadership engagement, support and participation. Leaders typically encourage employees to hold walking meetings or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

In the past three years, Chipotle's My Total Well-Being program continues to function as a key component of leadership which encourages executives to discuss the highlights and social challenges, as well as participant the successes at the biannual all-managers' conference.

The Results

In the past three years, Chipotle has dramatically increased wellness program participation:

  • 333 percent -- biometric screening completion
  • 166 percent -- assessment completion
  • 62 percent -- engagement in programs resulting in earning incentives

Perhaps, most impressive, weight gain was eliminated, despite an increase in participation. As a result, Chipotle has been able to keep healthcare costs below industry standards. The next three years of this strategic approach are now focused on embedding wellness as an integral element of Chipotle's culture.

YEAR 4: Will focus on instituting best practices and creating the framework to support wellness as a business strategy.

YEAR 5: Will focus on solidifying the culture of wellness, and supporting changes to ensure wellness becomes the social norm.

YEAR 6: Will focus on results, engagement and sustainable culture change with a goal to have more than 50 percent of all employees involved in wellness. Recently, Chipotle, led by a fitness consultant and creator of the Certified Corporate Fitness Professional (CCFP) designation offered by the Employer Healthcare & Benefits Congress, piloted an Activity and Nutrition Challenge.

Together, they combined the HIGH-TECH and HIGH-TOUCH approaches to determine if this method would increase engagement and sustainability of behavior change over eight weeks. The weekly challenge consisted of fitness, nutrition, stress and sleep activities tracked online.

This pilot group of participants also received weekly onsite education classes, personal coaching and weigh-ins. The targeted group of almost 40 employees was chosen from an application pool based on primary and secondary personal health goals and level of commitment. Each participant received a "tool kit" comprised of:

  • Food and exercise journal
  • Compression wear
  • Pedometer
  • Healthy snacks
  • Travel exercise kit with weight bands, running reflectors and jump rope
  • Detailed "how to booklet" with 250 exercises (strength, cardio, flexibility)
  • Eight-week fitness and nutrition plan

The first four weeks of the program focused on healthy eating. On-site classes, taught by a Certified Nutritionist with 16 years of experience, focused on portion control, eating out, reading food labels, and emotional eating. The second half of the program was designed by a fitness consultant, with the goal to show employees how to exercise properly and increase activity awareness.

Each week, employees had a personal trainer or fitness instructor lead classes in Tai chi, boot camp in the park, and high intensity interval training. Coaching was also provided in a variety of modes including onsite, and through Skype, email and telephone, all to help participants reach goals.

A Facebook group was created to engage employees and establish a community in which participants encouraged each other. Posts ranged from photos of workouts and goal-sharing to organization of off-site hikes, classes and outdoor workouts.

High-Touch increases retention, accountability and camaraderie within the program and High-Tech helps to achieve scalable and affordable deployment throughout the company. Chipotle maintained 78 percent attendance during the eight-week program In total, the group had a 2.5 percent weight-loss, including two participants who lost more than 20 pounds.

Success was attributed to the High-Tech tracking tools and weekly High-Touch classes. "I feel great and am so happy to see the weight starting to come off. At our first meeting, you made a comment that totally clicked with me. Being hungry is a dieter's worst enemy, and I finally feel like I have a weapon to combat that. It is a brand new way of thinking," said one participant.

As the program at Chipotle continues, Total Well-Being looks forward to sharing additional results at the Employer Healthcare & Benefits Congress, Sept. 27-30, 2015, in Orlando, Florida.

About the Author

Colleen Reilly is President of Total Well-Being, which offers corporate wellness solutions in the form of strategy, consulting, account management, communications, technology and Personalized Corporate Wellness.

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