Chipotle to spend tax reform money sprucing up its restaurants

Here's how Chipotle got 500 people sick
Here's how Chipotle got 500 people sick

Some companies are giving bonuses to employees with money they're getting from the tax reform bill. Others are buying back shares or paying down debt.

Chipotle (CMG) says it's going to spend $20,000 making a restaurant near you more appealing.

The Mexican food chain said this week that it plans to spend $50 million of its tax reform savings as a one-time investment in its stores. With 24,000 restaurants, that works out to about $20,000 per location.

"This initiative is about refreshing things in our restaurants aesthetically to make them more inviting and efficient for guests," said spokesman Chris Arnold.

Related: Chipotle is still struggling - and queso may not save it

The company said the money is in addition to the $10,000 per restaurant it regularly spends to fix up its locations every year. Chipotle said the money will not be spent addressing the recurring problem it has had with some customers getting sick after eating its food.

"This doesn't have anything to do with food safety, though we have made significant investments in improving food safety over the last couple of years and that continues to be a top priority for us," said Arnold.

The company said it will spend about a third of its overall tax savings on employees, including a $1,000 cash bonus to restaurant workers, as well as $1,000 in stock to central office staff. But they're using that bonus as a retention incentive, requiring employees to stay with the the company from at least Feb. 16 through the end of the year in order to qualify for the cash payment. It is also improving maternity and paternity coverage as well as life insurance and short-term disability coverage for staff. They did not give details about the improved benefits.

Related: Chipotle looking for a new CEO

The tax reform bill passed late last year significantly cut the corporate tax rate. A number of companies have announced bonuses that they attributed to the tax reform bill. But the bonuses also come at a time when wages have been rising at their fastest pace in eight years due to very low unemployment. Workers in restaurants and bars are among those seeing a better than average wage increase, up about 4.2% over the course of 2017, according to government readings.

The one way that the tax reform bill hurts Chipotle is it said it can no longer fully deduct the cost of free meals that it gives to employees. Those meals constitute a "substantial benefit that we offer our employees," according to Jack Hartung, its chief financial officer.

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