The Women Running Taco Bell
Taco Bell Before
An Emergency in the C-Suite
To begin with, Taco Bell adheres to a policy of employing 50% men and 50% women in totality; amongst executives and all other staff. Make no mistake, these men and women are not being hired to simply meet some gender quota in order to fulfill a progressive brand image. This is especially being proven amidst the departure of rockstar CEO Brian Niccol to their industry rival Chipotle with the Orange County Business Journal reporting this year’s sales nearing $11 Billion!
The “Next man up” mentality comes to mind. Though, in this case, Julie Felss Masino and Liz Williams stepped up to plate and are hitting what looks to be a home run for Taco Bell and its parent company YUM! Brands.
Greg Creed was once himself CEO of Taco Bell before being promoted to Yum Brands CEO; when asked about the current performance of Taco Bell’s co-presidents in an interview with Nations Restaurant News he says he’s “…Really happy with how the brand is being run.” Keeping it straight to the point.
Julie Felss Masino Bio
It would be beneficial for anybody to understand as much as possible how Masino and Williams ascended to their positions and the core principles that steered their paths. While information to do an extensive biographical article on their lives is lacking, what we can do is review a number of their decisions and read the tea leaves.
The earliest traces of Julie Felss Masino’s career date back to a 12-year tenure at Starbucks where she held Vice President roles in the global merchandise and global beverage areas.
Eventually, it looks like she had a little Howard Shultz festering in her blood and opted to leave Starbucks in order to take on the Sprinkles Cupcakes CEO position where she spearheaded their national growth strategy.
She then took on roles at Mattel, a toy manufacturing company, before finally being hired at Taco Bell in January of 2018. The next month then-CEO Brian Niccol dropped the bombshell announcement he’d be leaving Taco Bell, after storied success, to take on Chipotle’s CEO position. Masino’s dedication to excellence in her career coupled with an inner, inescapable, entrepreneurial spirit make it clear she was more than ready to take the helm alongside Liz Williams.
Liz Williams Bio
Liz Williams worked for Yum! Brands before applying for a leadership position at Taco Bell. She was also 6 months pregnant upon being hired. In an interview with Food and Wine, she remembers reconsidering taking the role, when on a call with Melissa Lora, (then President of Taco Bell International) Lora said to her “Don’t make a decision not to take this job because of some silly thing like having a baby.”
The truth is Taco Bell empowers their employees with families by offering childcare services on-site and providing as much support as possible in helping them create a fulfilling work-life balance.
Things were much different at the time Melissa Lora joined Taco Bell 30 years earlier. By the time she worked her way up to the Chief Financial Officer role, she recalls being the only women on the executive team. Lora likely played a vital role in creating a more inclusive culture at Taco Bell, which has only lead it to fast-food industry heights along with some of the most opportunity for growth amongst rivals.
Lora’s experience and confidence in Williams were unwavering. Despite her reservations, Williams took the job. Little did she know all the potential Lora likely saw in her that she may not have even seen in herself at the time. To put it in sports terms, this is like Joe Montana passing the torch to Steve Young or Bret Favre to Aaron Rodgers. Real recognize real. Williams would eventually take over Lora’s former position as CFO then after Lora’s retirement and Brian Niccol’s departure was crowned Co-President with Julie Felss Masino.
Taco Bell After
Masino and Williams are a one-two punch. Williams has been around longer, understands the history, culture, and values that have gotten Taco Bell thus far. Channeling her entrepreneurial spirit, Masino brings the risky yet calculated vision any leader can only hope to bring to fruition. They’re a perfect match. Below, Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed discusses the incredible surge the stock has seen over the last few years; Taco Bell being praised as the main contributor:
Together they have brought us Nacho Fries, seamless delivery via a partnership with GrubHub, and look to grow to 9,000 locations by 2022. In 2018 same-store sales proved positive in all four quarters. In the last year Yum! Brands stock has increased from $81.91 a share to $100.99 a share with Taco Bell as the leading bell cow amongst their companies; which also include A&W, KFC, Long John Silver’s, and Pizza Hut.
The proof is in the pudding, Masino and Williams so far have been successful in every measurable way. Taco Bell is in great hands.