Taco Bell From Home
How Taco Bell’s Craveable Culture Works from Home
By Mark King, CEO Taco Bell
The craveable company culture at Taco Bell is famous. I had heard about it long before I started working here, and even through Zoom, it’s easy to see why. People are drawn to work at Taco Bell for the same reason fans are drawn to eat at Taco Bell. It’s fun, energizing and unique. And just like how you can’t find a Crunchwrap on any other menu, you can’t find a work environment like Taco Bell’s anywhere else.
But when COVID hit, I worried about our company culture. Would the passion translate to a virtual workplace? Without hallway conversations, spur of the moment lunches or team happy hours, how could we stay safely distanced and also connected? For me personally, one question loomed large: How could I demonstrate my own resilience to lead, engage and inspire this talented team through this challenging time?
It turns out that the very same creativity that the Taco Bell team embodies every single day is the fueling force that guided my leadership and our collective approach this past year. Together, we questioned the norm so that we could move forward towards something even greater. It’s my personal responsibility to improve and inspire so that others feel that they also have the opportunity and growth that brought them to Taco Bell.
After sticking to an in-office routine for many years, I had to challenge myself to reconsider my presumptions around traditional corporate culture and assumptions about working from home. Would I be able to onboard new members of my executive team successfully while working remotely? How would I help a struggling colleague without impromptu in-person conversations? I pushed myself to address these issues unconventionally and found that getting away from routine inspires creativity and new perspectives. Team meetings are now supplemented by one-on-ones with a focus on personal wellness check-ins, not just work. These changes also inspired me to reach out to my network to find experts to speak in virtual town halls to facilitate tough, but important conversations around topics like social justice.
In the midst of working from home, the passionate folks at Taco Bell came together to form several employee resource groups, furthering our equity, inclusion and belonging journey immediately. One such group is our first resource group for womxn, WomXn @ The Bell, designed to encourage leadership and provide resources and opportunities for womxn. I know that diversity is the key to our business’ success and I could not be more proud to help champion all womxn in our workplace and beyond by serving as the executive sponsor for this particular employee resource group.
And while the halls in our headquarters aren’t as bustling as they once were, I have asked myself and challenged the team to find creative ways to rally the troops. How could we change the way we use our physical space while staying safe? We started by transforming our offices into a “Truck-Thru” and celebrated essential workers in vehicles too large for a traditional drive-thru by providing them with free meals. Then we pivoted our annual Halloween bash into a Trick-or-Treat drive-thru, and we even turned our annual franchisee convention, which is attended by 1,600 people, into a completely online interactive experience.
This culture of embracing change amidst difficult times has translated into accelerated improvements in Taco Bell’s business as well. In the span of just a few months, our teams not only implemented industry-leading safety standards to meet new COVID regulations across the entire system, but we also expedited digital milestones including Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurant plans, a new beta loyalty program and delivery upgrades to provide our fans with safe and convenient ways to experience Taco Bell.
These changes might feel small in the grand scheme of 2020, but small actions often lead to big cultural shifts. Great leaders challenge conventions and embrace constructive disruption to make things not just different, but better. Ultimately, the changes we made this year required all of us — especially me — to push the boundaries every day. Together, we embraced our innovative spirit to ensure that the company culture we love so much has remained strong, and above all else, certain in a time of great uncertainty.
So, while leadership looks different in 2020, I’d like to think that even though our Zoom meetings don’t come with discounted appetizers, they still facilitate thoughtful, enthusiastic discussion. And while nothing replaces the buzz of our beloved HQ, our Slack GIFs provide the same laughs as our in-office banter. Even though we’re seeing one another less, we’re doing our very best to remain connected and Live Más.