Taco Bell CEO Mark King on Tapping Into the Human Element of Operations

A conversation with the man who oversees the Franchise 500-topping fast-food chain.
Taco Bell CEO Mark King on Tapping Into the Human Element of Operations
Image credit: Araya Doheny | Stringer | Getty Images

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Besides offering great products and instituting solid systems, most standout franchises have also mastered the human side of their business. They understand people – employees, customers and especially their franchisees.

California-based Taco Bell was founded by Glen Bell more than 70 years ago, yet has continued to innovate and thrive, besting hundreds of great bands and direct competitors to land atop Entrepreneur's 2021 Franchise 500 ranking.

As a longtime franchisee and franchise coach myself, I sought out current Taco Bell CEO Mark King to learn more about the venerable fast-food chain's journey to the top. Here are excerpts from our recent conversation.

Related: 2021 Franchise 500 Ranking

What's the foremost thing Taco Bell has done to become such a highly rated franchise?

Our franchise partners are key players in how we grow the business together and create unforgettable guest experiences. As a system, we are consistently pushing the boundaries within the industry to be a brand beyond fast food. We deliver profitable growth for our franchisees. 

What does Taco Bell do to promote a strong culture within its franchise community?

Franchisees play an important role in building our culture, and we always want them to know that they can come to us with new ideas or challenges and that we’ll work together on a gameplan. The relationship we have with our franchisees allows us to quickly implement new elements to the business and makes Taco Bell a trusted partner.

How would you describe the mindset of your top franchise owners? 

Our top franchisees are hungry for innovation and new technology. We love their pioneer-like spirit, and it fuels so much passion internally. We engage with our franchisees across all areas of the business and provide them with the support they need to grow their business.

Quick-service restaurants are not necessarily known for providing great customer experiences. What does Taco Bell do to stand out and make customers happy?

We like to think that our brand embodies the spirit of an eternal 25-year-old: always youthful, always fun and always positive. We also know that our team members are our greatest brand ambassadors and always want to make sure that they’re working in an environment that matches the spirit of the brand. Additionally, we’re always listening to consumer insights and provide menu offerings that make Taco Bell the go-to destination for fans of all lifestyles.

How have you navigated through the pandemic and what have you done to support franchisees during this time?

Throughout the pandemic, Taco Bell has worked with our franchisees to make major pivots quickly and efficiently, which is a true testament to our partnership. Taco Bell communicates with franchise partners through regular internal communications and virtual meetings to share updates on the business as the world quickly changes. We work in lock-step with our franchisees at all times in order to make sure our restaurants are the safest place to work and eat. Taco Bell implemented more safety measures on top of our rigorous procedures with our customers and team members in mind, like contactless ordering and payment.

What advice do you have for other franchise organizations about mastering the human side of their business?

Building a strong relationship with your franchise partners is pivotal to growing the business. Listen and implement the feedback from your franchisees as the business continues to evolve.

Related: How Taco Bell Is Becoming the World's Most Innovative Franchise

Any other final thoughts or comments?

We couldn’t be the brand that we are today without our franchise partners. We’re proud of the work we’ve done together so far, and we’re looking forward to continuing collaborating and building a bright future.

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