Chipotle pledges to reduce food waste at landfills Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Chipotle pledges to reduce waste at landfills

Chain sets a 50-percent diversion goal by 2020

Chipotle Mexican Grill outlined several programs aimed at diverting 50 percent of all restaurant waste from landfills.

The pledge, announced Monday, is an expansion of existing efforts at the Denver-based chain. Chipotle’s more than 2,400 restaurants have already diverted 40 percent of waste bound for landfills

The company outlined programs that will help it reach the 50-percent goal including training staff to minimize food waste during kitchen prep, expanding in-store recycling and composting programs, and performing waste audits.

The audits, for example, have led to the replacement of plastic wrap with reusable lids to reduce the amount of plastic material sent to landfills. 

Operationally, the restaurants will adjust the amount of food needed for prep based on individual unit sales.

Chipotle also is expanding its food donations. By 2020, it expects 80 percent of its restaurants to participate in the Harvest Program, which donates food leftovers to local organizations.   

Caitlin Leibert, head of sustainability, said the company’s waste diversion goal of 50 percent is “ambitious” but crucial to the brand’s “Food with Integrity” ethos.

"We remain deeply dedicated to bringing guests great tasting food while upholding Chipotle's values and commitment to food made with respect for the land and environment,” Leibert said in a statement.

In a 2016 sustainability report, Chipotle outlined other major planet-friendly programs including introducing compostable burrito bowls at all locations by 2018, ensuring 100 percent of its restaurants are recycling by 2020 and reducing average energy consumption per restaurant by 5 percent by 2020.

The food waste reduction goals come as Chipotle continues to shake off declining sales and traffic tied to several food-borne illness outbreaks in 2015 and 2016. 

Its turnaround effort, as it embarks on its 25th anniversary this year, includes hiring new leadership.  In February, Chipotle tapped Brian Niccol to lead the company as CEO, persuading him to leave Irvine, Calif.-based Taco Bell.  The following month, Chipotle named another Taco Bell alum, Chris Brandt, as chief marketing officer.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Chipotle’s same-store sales increased 0.9 percent, which the company partially attributed to menu price increases. Chipotle is slated to announce its first quarter results April 25.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @FastFoodMaven

Correction: April 10, 2018
The story has been updated to reflect Chipotle's landfill diversion goal to include all waste, not just food waste.
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