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Taco Bell’s Menu Has Something New (You Can’t Eat It)


Adding diversity to the ranks of management and franchise ownership requires disrupting the current system. That has been a particular challenge for the fast-food industry.

Chains like Yum! Brands’  (YUM) – Get Yum! Brands, Inc. Report Taco Bell offer low-paying (albeit now at least $15 an hour at company-owned restaurants) jobs that attract a diverse workforce. 

Moving those workers up the chain so they become not just managers but franchise owners has been something with which the company (and many of its rivals) has struggled.

Now, the Irvine, Calif., chain has found at least part of the solution because its managers were willing to ask themselves a tough question, which it shared in a news release.

Shouldn’t the leaders in the Taco Bell system reflect the people who eat and work there? In an effort to break down potential barriers and further diversify its franchise system, Taco Bell announced today that it is rolling out Taco Bell Business School in partnership with University of Louisville: a first-of-its-kind franchise training program to elevate restaurant leaders as entrepreneurs and break down barriers to franchise ownership.

Progress requires doing something different and Taco Bell has taken this step to help train a new group of potential franchise owners.

Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Taco Bell

Taco Bell partnered with University of Louisville’s College of Business in 2021 to create the Yum Center for Global Franchise Excellence. 

That sounds a bit like the “First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence” from season 3 of “The Simpsons.” But it’s a real effort (as opposed to a fake awards ceremony created so Homer Simpson wouldn’t sue Mr. Burns after Bart was hit by Homer’s boss’s car).

The Yum center was created to “unlock opportunities for underrepresented communities through education on the business of franchising.” 

Now, the two partners have a pilot program that will work to “create pathways for restaurant leaders to advance in their careers while helping the brand build a more diverse franchise system.”

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A six-week business boot camp, the program will give “top-performing restaurant leaders the fundamentals of franchise ownership, leveraging existing curriculum from the Yum Center for Global Franchise Excellence, infused with a Taco Bell twist.” 

These will be accredited classes and training on “critical business and entrepreneurial skills, from financing, growth, and development to marketing and [human resources],” the company said,

Taco Bell has also partnered with current franchise owners to share their experiences and expertiseduring the courses.

Taco Bell is launching the program when the entire service sector has struggled to find workers to fill open positions. 

One way to entice potential employees is to show that a fast-food job is actually the first step on a career ladder, where attaining not just a top management position but also becoming an owner is possible.

That’s a path some current Taco Bell leaders have followed.

“When I first started working in a Taco Bell restaurant in 1983, I thought I would only stay for a few months,” said Tina Reagan, chief operating officer of franchise K-Mac Enterprises. “Little did I know I would end up staying for a few decades and eventually managing and operating 319 restaurants.”

Reagan echoes the need for this type of training.

“As someone who started as a team member, I know first hand that franchise ownership can be an intimidating path,” she said.

 “But it’s been very rewarding. I am proud to work for a company that is working to build a path to franchise ownership for restaurant leaders from diverse backgrounds across all levels.”

Taco Bell’s first boot camp will begin later this month. All participants will receive scholarships that cover the cost of the program. 

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