Taco Bell and the popular fast-food chain’s owner Yum! Brands have entered the DEI arena with a new business school designed to help people of all backgrounds — and people of color in particular — advance into restaurant ownership.
Jonathan Maze of Restaurant Business reported that “a select group of Taco Bell managers will soon be the debut class of the Taco Bell Business School, a six-week ‘boot camp’ style education program designed to teach them the fundamentals of franchise owners — potentially bridging the way for them to get into restaurant ownership or advancement into broader leadership positions.”
The program is a new joint effort between educators from the University of Louisville and business leaders from the Yum Center for Global Franchise Excellence, a recently launched franchise education effort from Taco Bell’s parent company, designed specifically to help bring more women and people of color into franchising.
According to Maze, “the business school is targeted at underrepresented groups that might not otherwise have opportunities to advance into franchise ownership. The program is free for the attendees.” The school’s first series of classes begin in early February.
In a statement, Taco Bell CEO Mark King expressed great optimism for the program, saying he hoped it could bring people into restaurant management who would otherwise never have the chance.
“We are really curious,” he said. “Can we take someone who probably doesn’t have all the necessary resources and find a way for them to be a franchisee, owning a restaurant?”
King believes that by enrolling in Taco Bell’s new educational program and then shadowing an existing franchise owner, current general managers could quickly find themselves running their own successful operations.
In addition to helping the company find talented future franchise owners, Maze said Taco Bell’s new effort is also “designed to broaden Taco Bell’s pool of prospective franchisees to include historically underrepresented or marginalized groups — while also providing the foundation for a recruitment and retention initiative for employees.”
The Taco Bell Business School is launching at a precarious time for the restaurant industry. Already hurt by lockdowns and quarantines and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, recent shortages in labor across the workforce have forced companies to work even harder to draw in and attract quality employees.
“At the same time, a number of companies have been more cognizant about promoting diversity within their systems,” Maze said. “McDonald’s, for instance, recently vowed to commit $250 million to recruit a more diverse set of franchisees. The idea of the Taco Bell Business School is to take people who’ve demonstrated skill in operating restaurants and instruct them on various elements of owning a business.”
Currently designed as an online-only educational experience, the Taco Bell program will feature educational classes and training on general business practices, entrepreneurial skills, financing, marketing and human resources. Classes are also offered on a part-time basis, allowing students to continue working their existing jobs while they attend.
King hopes that future sessions will be even larger and more robust, offering opportunities to an even greater pool of students. One key draw he’s locked in to help the program grow? A superstar celebrity endorsement from Lil Nas X, who worked as a Taco Bell worker before he found success on the music charts. The hitmaker was recently named Taco Bell’s “Chief Impact Officer” and will help to promote the program and increase recruitment.
“We’re very serious about [the school],” King said. “We have plenty of funds to do it the right way. It’s going to be much bigger, robust, and very different than anything else out there.”