Restaurant Manager and Community Activist Joe Herman Parts Ways with Chipotle.
by Scott Panek on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 12:11am
Here’s a rule of thumb to live by: if a line is long enough, you know there must be something great at the end. Take Space Mountain at Disneyland; hundreds of people stand in line under the baking sun, but the thrilling reward of the ride is well worth any wait. In the case of Davis’ Chipotle, which has housed throngs of Da Vinci and Davis High School students during every lunch hour for the past six years, this rule has certainly applied.
But what drew members of the Davis community so fervently to this Mexican grill was not just the well-prepared, delicious burritos and quesadillas. Rather, what made Chipotle one of Davis’ premier destinations was the friendliness, compassion, and community involvement of its previous manager, Joe Herman.
Managing Chipotle was not just a job for Joe. It was a portal through which he reached out to lend a helping hand to our town. Joe maintained a determined commitment to the youth in our community. Joe Biggs, a Youth Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Davis, says, “Joe has helped our youth ministry in countless ways. At our annual New Years party… Joe has donated a lot of prizes, including t-shirts and free burrito cards... probably an average of a dozen shirts and 25 burrito cards each year!” Many of us know from experience the effort Joe put into catering Da Vinci and Davis High School events free of charge.
The annual Davis Schoolapalooza, which raised over $75,000 in 2010, was spearheaded by Joe. When asked why he worked so hard on community events such as Schoolapalooza, Joe says, “I love Davis. I’ve lived here for years. I have two kids in the system. I care about the community. I care about the people who live here.”
In addition to public events, Joe assisted individuals in our city with empathy. Kim Garrett, a local mother, says that “when I was laid off and waiting for my ridiculously delayed unemployment payments to start, Chipotle of Davis literally fed my family for a month. My loyalty is to Joe Herman, for his community service and support, and his big heart… I know many share this sentiment.”
So why would a man who has given endlessly to his community – garnishing dogged loyalty from thousands – separate from the very company where he worked and served with great success? It can be boiled down to one word: stockholders.
Joe explains that when he joined Chipotle six years ago, the privately owned company encouraged community involvement. But when it recently went public, inviting in investors, stockholders, and the like, the priorities of the company shifted.
Corporate Chipotle began forcing Joe off important Boards of which he was a prominent member, such as the Downtown Business Board. They revoked his Facebook page for “Chipotle of Davis” under the false charge of a “provocative” post, which the“2,000 people who ‘liked’ the page didn’t seem to have any problem with,” Joe explains.
Then the last straw: administrators issued Joe an ultimatum. “Corporate Chipotle told me I had to cut down on the amount of community outreach. They said if I had already donated to a cause, that I could not donate again. I couldn’t help more than once.”
The new corporate administrators were more interested in lowering the bottom line and increasing profits than assisting the restaurants’ host communities. Regardless of Joe’s Chipotle’s enormous and consistent success – a sizeable portion of which can be attributed to the loyal following engendered by his generous outreach – Corporate Chipotle wanted Joe’s business practices to be more orthodox.
“How does that make any sense?” asks Joe. “That’s just not how we roll in Davis.” Remaining true to his values, Joe refused the option of changing how he ran his business in order to stay on as manager. Instead, he signed his resignation. “I pushed the fort walls of Corporate Chipotle as far as they had ever been pushed. I was just sticking to what I knew was right,” reflects Joe. “Frankly, I’m not sure if anyone else has the balls to push the boundaries like I did.”
Whether or not Joe takes Corporate Chipotle to court is uncertain, but one thing is clear: “I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here in Davis,” assures Joe. “The day I signed my resignation note, I was approached with an offer for a new restaurant in Davis. It’s called Jersey Mike’s.”
Jersey Mike’s, interestingly enough, is a sandwich restaurant chain with a long history of philanthropy. Sported on the front page of its website is a link called “Giving” which leads to a telling explanation. It reads: “Ever since he operated a single store in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, Jersey Mike’s founder, Peter Cancro, has believed in giving back to the community. His passion for helping others has resonated throughout the Jersey Mike’s system, resulting in an incredible outpouring of local giving and community support from Jersey Mike’s stores across the country.”
Take a delicious restaurant which encourages its managers to be proactive members of their communities, add Joe Herman and his legacy of heartfelt outreach, and you have a match made in heaven. Perhaps in the near future we will find Joe on the Davis restaurant scene once again, this time within a system that encourages his brand of compassion.
In closing, Joe wishes to pass this message on to all those in Davis who care about him and the impact he has made in our city:
“I would like to thank all of the people in the community for the outpouring of love and support I have received. It is helping me get through a very difficult time. I am not at liberty to say anymore than what was stated in this article and I ask that you respect my daughter’s privacy in this matter. In closing I will say if you feel in your heart you are doing the right thing, do it no matter how big the pushback will be. It is all about integrity and doing what is right.
Peace and Love,
We here at The Vitruvian wish Joe Herman the best of luck as he takes this exciting next step in his life, and thank him for all he has done for our school and our community.
If you wish to support Joe Herman and his cause, log on to Facebook and join the group “Operation Davis Ca. Retaliation: Help Joe, combat chipotle.” Support Joe today!