Gabe Smith, Campus Carrier asst. arts & living editor
Developers are continuing construction at the East Bend shopping center near downtown Rome. Two new restaurants, Chipotle and Panda Express, opened their doors in early October, and others are scheduled to open in coming months. Texas Roadhouse, Fazoli’s Italian, and McAlister’s Deli are expected to open in December, followed by Old Navy and Five Below stores in March 2021. All of these brands are new to Rome.
According to Jesus “Lupe” Cervantes, the general manager of the new Chipotle, the public has been enthusiastic about the new developments in East Bend, including his own.
“It’s been amazing,” Cervantes said. “Everybody in Rome was talking about it. When we were doing the interviews, everybody was like, ‘oh my God, we love Chipotle, we got to drive an hour to Kennesaw just to get some Chipotle.’ They were excited about Panda Express, too, but, of course, people know what Chipotle stands for. They were definitely excited about it.”
He explained that despite the ongoing pandemic, the restaurant was able to open on time and serve customers safely thanks to support from the Chipotle corporation, which implemented additional standardized policies, including ones related to social distancing and sanitization, at its locations across the country.
“We do implement wellness checks at the beginning of each shift, to identify if any crew members have any symptoms that could be COVID-related or contagious,” Cervantes said. “We also doubled handwashing, so we do handwashing every thirty minutes, every time you touch your uniform, every time between tasks, [like] after taking out the trash. We sanitize the restaurant from the patio to the back door, including door handles, the telephone, any high-contact surfaces.”
Cervantes also explained Chipotle’s hiring philosophy and said that even though his store’s initial hiring wave was completed, he is always looking for new talent.
“We are always hiring,” Cervantes said. “We are the type of company [where] we look for talent 100% of the time. Even if we are staffed, we always interview people, because we never know who’s out there. There could be someone with a lot of skills, experience, great attitude – they could be the next Area Manager or CEO, you name it. That’s why we have to stay interviewing people.”
As for the food that Chipotle offers, Cervantes emphasized that his restaurant uses natural, fresh ingredients, and that the quality of the ingredients is reflected in their taste.
“We only use 51 ingredients, compared to other companies, where, say, their cheese dip has 48+ ingredients, most of them are chemicals, preservatives, all that stuff,” Cervantes said. “Everything we make is made from scratch, no hormones, no GMOs, never been frozen. Our meat, everything is grass-fed, no antibiotics, raised in a more humane way. So, of course that’s going to make an impact on how everything tastes. And we focus a lot on hospitality as well.”
The simplicity of Chipotle’s array of ingredients is reflected in Cervantes’s favorite meal there.
“I have tried everything, but my go-to is always just white rice, black beans, steak, sour cream and cheese,” he said. “I’m really picky, I don’t like veggies that much, so that’s why I always get sour cream and cheese only.”
Finally, Cervantes noted that customers should feel free to try new foods and tastes at Chipotle, even if it seems weird.
“We always fulfill special requests from the customers,” Cervantes said. “We have customers that like honey – I have tried honey on my burrito and on my bowl, it’s actually pretty good. It sounds weird, but it tastes great actually.”