Chipotle adds mental health benefits for employees amid fast food wellness trend

Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it will provide both mental healthcare and financial wellness benefits to its employees to help them keep up with the fast food grind.

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In a press release that went out Tuesday, the chain said it will extend access to these benefits to more than 80,000 workers in 2020 through Employee Assistance Programs.

"This is just the beginning of how we're strategically investing in the well-being of our employees and their families," Chipotle's Chief People Officer Marissa Andrada said in the release. "Our vision for people is to create a culture where employees can thrive and pursue their passion and by extending access to all levels and enriching our Employee Assistance Program, we are ensuring that our employees can build mental fitness and bring their best selves to work every day."

An employee rings up a customer while others prepare orders at a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Hollywood, Calif., July 16, 2013. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File)

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Mental health and emotional support will be provided through in-person, phone or virtual visits with a licensed counselor. Streamlining accessibility to experts in the health industry is meant to aid Chipotle employees’ personal, professional, financial and legal concerns.

Other benefits Chipotle is adopting for next year include a mobile-friendly digital portal, a financial wellness platform, and preferred provider organization healthcare plans for hourly employees as well as gym discounts.

The benefits will also be available to the family members of Chipotle associates, according to the release.

In its own words, the fast-food chain is taking this step to “minimize the effect of mental health in the workplace.”

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This news comes a month after Chipotle introduced a debt-free college tuition opportunities for select employees through the Chipotle Cultivate Education benefits program.

Chipotle isn’t the only food chain that is trying to retain talent by treating its employees well.

A view of the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery during a press conference in Shanghai, China, December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song - RC1CA10F0B00

In early September, coffee giant Starbucks announced employee benefits that target mental health, professional development and safe transportation via ride-share options.

“Through strategic, long-term investments in labor hours, training, and streamlining tasks and processes critical to running a store, we will work to alleviate some of the pressure and stress that often limits our store managers to lead and grow,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a letter to company employees at the time.

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Starbucks hasn’t forgotten its employees who are on the ground and providing versatile food services for customers. The chain is changing the layout to some of its stores to manage online and in-person orders.

“It was very difficult for our baristas to just try to force 80 drinks within a 15-minute window on one small handoff point, so we have extended in 200 stores across the New York, Manhattan, Financial District areas, we’ve expanded physically in that area because we know the need for convenience is growing,” Starbucks Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer told FOX Business.

FILE - In this Thursday, April 25, 2013, file photo, a car stops at the drive-thru at a Burger King restaurant near downtown Los Angeles. Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King and Tim Hortons, reports financial results Mo

Burger King was embroiled in criticism earlier this year when it partnered with Mental Health America for an advertising campaign that encouraged customers to “#FeelYourWay” during Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

BURGER KING TAKES ON MCDONALD'S HAPPY MEALS WITH 'MOODY' BOXES

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The campaign involved Burger King branded Real Meal menu item that took a direct shot at McDonald’s Happy Meal with moody declarations printed on each box. The chain also put out a corresponding video that showed difficult circumstances that can try a person’s mental health while also promoting the edgy meal kit.

Despite the creative move, the campaign received backlash from social media users and former employees who accused the burger chain of capitalizing on depression and not taking mental health seriously.

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One viral tweet from a previous assistant manager cited her experience at Burger King as a challenging ordeal.

“This tweet has me feeling a type of way because when was an assistant manager at BK I was so overworked and stressed that I cried in the walk in multiple times,” Twitter user Clari shared. “Bring this energy to your regional managers, smaller franchise owners and your employees.”

In following tweets, Clari said Burger King managers can work anywhere between 60 and 100 hours per week depending on how big of an operation it is. She added that this is a common issue with the fast food industry as a whole rather than it being exclusive to Burger King.

Burger King did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment on employee benefits and whether it will follow suit with initiatives targeting mental health.

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In a separate FOX Business report, the U.S. unemployment rate hit record lows – reaching 3.5 percent in September. With so many Americans working, fast food chains may very well feel it is necessary to extend health-conscious benefits or initiatives to remain competitive.