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Chatting With Chipotle’s CEO | Character — Part II


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Monty Moran, co-CEO of Chipotle, talks to Sarah K Asaftei about core values & leadership.

SARAH: Tell me more about your Restaurateur Culture.

MONTY: I believe the general manager position is the most important position in Chipotle, period. Because GMs hire 99.9% of our people. They decide who comes in the door and who doesn’t. They’re either effective at developing people into future leaders, or not. They have complete ownership over our customer experience, which is what drives our success.

So the manager is the most important position in the company, but when I came on board we didn’t treat them that way. Most of our managers wanted to move up to an area manager position, where they leave the restaurant and oversee half a dozen restaurants. This promoted the very best managers, who were the most effective in creating a great restaurant experience and hiring people, right out of the restaurant.


MONTY: So I said, “Look, I want the gravity in this company, the job everyone wants, to be the general manager level, not greater. I want them to be the heroes; I want everyone to want to be a great general manager.”

But in order to promote that content, I had to create a new name for the general managers who manage in an enlightened way. I called them restaurateurs. As the most important position in the whole company, I personally interview every single one of them for this job. Every manager of the company who becomes a restaurateur gets it because one of the CEOs gave it to him. People thought I was crazy. But we did it.

I was looking for specific things in each candidate. To be a Chipotle restaurateur, this elite general manager position, you must have a team of top performers who are empowered to achieve high standards. So, there’s three criteria: top performers, empowerment, and high standards.

SARAH: Right.

MONTY: High standards are a throwaway because if you have top performers who are empowered with the right kind of knowledge, high standards are gonna fall out the bottom like a vending machine.

So the real focus is on building a crew of all top performers. How do you do that? First, you hire crew with the 13 characteristics. Second, you teach them to believe that the path to success is to make the people around them better. A top performer is someone who has the desire and ability to perform excellent work and through their constant effort to do so, elevates themselves, the people around themselves, and Chipotle.


MONTY: So there are kind of two pieces to the definition. Number one, you do a great job. Number two, you make others better. That’s to break it down. Do great work and make others better.

SARAH: Right.

MONTY: So at Chipotle, doing a great job doesn’t make you a top performer, that’s not enough. You have to do a good job and make others better, and do it all of the time.

SARAH: So it can’t be just you, it has to be you and the people around you.

MONTY: Empowerment is a feeling when you are confident in your ability and encouraged by your circumstances so that you feel motivated and at liberty to fully devote your talent to a purpose.

That’s a lot of words, but it is simple:

 A) Confident in your ability,

 B) Encouraged by your circumstances.

Confident in your ability just means you know how to do your job, and you’ve been trained properly.

The harder part of empowerment is: how do you create encouraging circumstances for people? You feel encouraged by your circumstances when you have a vision you believe in. In other words, when you know where you want to go.

SARAH: You have to have a deeper why.

MONTY: Yeah, and a great leader cares about you, challenges you, believes in you, trusts you, wants you to do better, loves you, and is committed to making you the very best you can be.

SARAH: Being at your best is a key part of that — because allowing mediocrity and complacency is not consistent with helping you gain confidence. Increased confidence comes from conquering new things that you didn’t think you could do but now you can.

MONTY: Absolutely! You feel at liberty to fully devote your talents to a purpose.

SARAH: Do you share those 13 core characteristics or is that proprietary?

MONTY: I don’t keep it a great secret. They include being: smart, infectiously enthusiastic, polite, hospitable, respectful, happy, motivated, ambitious, presentable, curious, honest, let’s see…hospitable, maybe I already said that. These are communicable characteristics you can instantly identify in a two-minute interview with someone.

SARAH: And those are things people either have or they don’t.

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