Chipotle creates unified view of operations across 2,400 restaurants, saving 10,000 hours per month

Developed a comprehensive view of operations across 2,400+ restaurants
Saved over 10,000 hours per month by consolidating 100+ data sources
Enabled company leaders and store managers to speed report delivery

Chipotle Mexican Grill is an American restaurant chain with more than 2,400 locations worldwide. Maintaining operational effectiveness is key, which means capturing and analyzing significant amounts of data.

Analytics leaders at Chipotle wanted to adopt modern business intelligence (BI) to make strategic decisions. This meant retiring legacy BI solutions such as MicroStrategy and hundreds of Excel reports—many that had identical information coming from different sources—that made it difficult to gauge if they met, surpassed or fell short of corporate performance measures.

After a trial period of three months, and with leadership buy-in, 1,000 people were utilizing Tableau dashboards to see a full view of operations. The company CEO has even embraced Tableau and uses it to present details of company performance at board meetings. With staff hungrier to seek and make sense of operations data, the speed of report delivery for strategic projects has tripled from quarterly to monthly. Embracing a modern, streamlined analytics process has also saved staff thousands of hours in a few months as they arrive and share insights more quickly.

Now, with an enterprise-wide, data-driven culture, Chipotle is making improvements that create a real difference in stores, with customers, and across the business.

In three months, we not only had dashboards, but we had staff actively using this data, actively getting insights, actively taking action, and really making a difference for customers in each of our restaurants.

Analyzing restaurants’ operational effectiveness encourages leadership engagement

After revamping their success metrics, the company wanted to consolidate disparate data sources into one dashboard to ensure that everyone was on the same page. “We knew we needed to do something different. We needed to get data to one place where everyone can see it together in the same way, and with the same understanding at all times,” said Zach Sippl, Director of Business Intelligence. This different approach meant adopting Tableau to see the complete picture of their data and streamlining their data sources.

Chipotle’s BI team created a reporting prototype in Tableau that displayed the restaurant’s operational effectiveness—one of the top measures of success. It took just 40 hours to show executives a new way of looking at data and to demonstrate the possibility of understanding the enterprise at macro and micro-levels. Given the speed of delivery with Tableau, Chipotle had a guided data analytic experience that went from the CEO’s office and boardroom down to individual restaurants, as they pinpointed where they were successful and where changes should be made. “When you have 2,400-plus restaurants, that’s something that you have to do quickly,” explained Zach. “And Tableau makes it really easy to provide all those dynamic capabilities,” he added.

Tableau has given my team at Chipotle a whole new level of excitement around their work.

Driving company-wide data culture with Tableau

The BI team put a solid foundation of data governance in place first to make sure they got the most important metrics in everybody’s hands all the time. Putting standards in place for how dashboards would be developed and pairing that with hands-on, upfront training meant people were clear on how all the dashboards worked. “It was very easy then to pick up the next dashboard with the next key insights because we developed the right standards that were aligned for all the ways we provided data and insights to them in the future,” explained Zach.

To ensure consistency of understanding also meant using Tableau as their dashboard tool of choice for the whole company. “It had to be successful and had to align as the way we were going to get together as a company, which meant we had to be focused and vigilant so we did it the right way and weren’t distracted,” shared Zach. They constantly monitor how all dashboards align with executive team priorities, where Chipotle is headed as a company, and corporate and strategic initiatives. In doing so, the right people can take action and never lose focus of core strategic objectives by using data visualization.

Close synchronization between leadership and the BI team during Tableau rollout was another key factor for successful adoption. Now, satisfied and excited executives are seeing and experiencing data in new and different ways. Zach adds: “The Chipotle executive team has been extremely happy with Tableau and extremely excited about how we’ve been able to have better reporting than ever as a company—and getting better insights faster and more effectively than ever.”

Tableau was the ticket to take all metrics and understanding to that next level.

Chipotle advisory committee supports Tableau development and adoption

During the Tableau rollout, Chipotle put in place a strong advisory committee that was supported by stakeholders across the company. They offered regular feedback to ensure the new foray into data analytics headed in the right direction and paired with company strategies.

One of the priorities was to align on critical metrics throughout every step of the development lifecycle. During the early stages of dashboard development, stakeholders were involved to ensure that the data was accurate and that they were addressing the right business questions. They created a structured delivery process for dashboards to promote timeliness, quality and consistency. “And even that, once we rolled it out, they were the ones that said, ‘Yes, we got it. Yes the right insights are out there and we’re seeing the action we want,’” reinforced Zach.

This group came from the frontlines at Chipotle—they ran the restaurants, engaged with customers, and made sure customers enjoyed the best experience each time they visited. They were chosen because they directly aligned to the end users that needed data most across the company. With a new data-driven perspective, they now had details to support the appropriate actions in restaurants that improved operations performance and customer service.