Taco Bell on Tuesday announced progress on achieving past goals and outlined new objectives for the coming years, including commitments to increase pay, promote diversity, drive menu innovation, and prioritize sustainability.
One of the brand's most notable initiatives is a leadership program called The Entrepreneur, which is for general managers in company-owned restaurants who have a base pay of $80,000, with potential to earn up to $100,000 with bonuses. The news comes nearly two years after the chain revealed it was testing $100,000 annual salaries at select corporate locations. For context, Taco Bell's corporate locations represent fewer than 10 percent of its U.S. footprint.
For hourly workers, Taco Bell plans to raise its average minimum wage to $15 per hour at corporate units by mid-year 2024. The chain has also emphasized mental health wellness by offering complimentary sessions with on-call therapists for corporate employees at restaurants and headquarters.
"Usually when you hear us talking about value, it's in reference to our delicious menu," CEO Mark King said in a statement. "But next year, we'll be talking a lot more about value in a different sense—our brand values. Our purpose, what we care about and what we stand for. Looking ahead to 2022, we're bringing different ideas, setting new, bold goals and holding ourselves accountable so that, together, we create a future that is craveable, sustainable and equitable."
In terms of increasing learning opportunities, Taco Bell is working with Guild Education, a company that connects brands to learning providers, to offer free undergraduate degrees to employees at company-run stores, including 100 percent coverage of tuition. The chain also revealed it achieved its three-year goal to award $21 million in Live Más Scholarships. Up to $7 million more will be available to those that apply by January 11.
Another driving philosophy is incorporating racial equity, which Taco Bell kickstarted with the introduction of Katrina Thornton, the chain's first-ever chief equity, inclusion, and belonging officer. Seeking diversity in marketing campaigns, the brand increased minority talent for at least 25 percent of on-screen, voice-over, model, and influencer appearances in 2022. That includes the addition of Black hip-hop artist and former Taco Bell employee Lil Nas X, who was named chief impact officer.
Inside restaurants, Taco Bell is partnering with Beyond Meat to produce an "innovative plant-based protein that is completely new to the national [quick-service restaurant] space."And to ensure quality ingredients, the brand is working with PepsiCo to ensure by the end of 2022 that at least 50 percent of 20-ounce medium fountain beverages are 100 calories or less and filled with 20 grams of sugar or less.
In addition, Taco Bell is identifying ways to reduce antibiotics in its U.S. and Canadian beef supply chain by 25 percent by 2025. The company joined the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture through Yum! Brands and serves as an active participant in the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
To improve sustainability, the restaurant has tested a recyclable and compostable packaging in San Francisco, including a narrower quesadilla bag that doesn't use plastic. The test will expand in the coming year. Taco Bell has also diverted more than 10,000 hot sauce packets from landfills, repurposed used cooking oil into renewable diesel or renewable polymers, and played a significant role in Yum!'s plan to cut greenhouse gases by 46 percent by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.