After more than two decades of helping Taco John’s establish itself as one of the largest Mexican quick-service restaurant brands in America, Jim Creel is retiring as Taco John’s Chief Executive Officer.
Creel, who has been CEO for six years, will stay on through the end of 2023 while the board of Taco John’s International conducts a search for his successor. The board had been aware of Creel’s plan to retire and anticipates making an announcement of its new leader in the coming months.
“We are grateful to Jim and all the work he has done to help Taco John’s become an integral player in the quick-service restaurant industry,” said Taco John’s Chairman of the Board Gerard Lewis. “Jim played a vital role in bringing me here and I’m thankful I got to work alongside him because he’s one of the best in the business. It’s through his leadership that Taco John’s has grown and flourished.”
Taco John’s has grown from a single taco stand in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to nearly 400 restaurants in 23 states with a strong and loyal following. Those legions of fans helped Taco John’s expansion under Creel’s watch, where average unit volumes have increased 22% and total system sales have increased to over $424M, growth of nearly 17% during his tenure as CEO. Creel joined the company in 2000 as Director of Technology and was named CFO in 2009. He was appointed CEO in 2017.
While other brands in the quick-service sector struggled to gain traction during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, Creel carefully guided Taco John’s through the safety, staffing and supply chain issues as well as the uneven economic conditions to grow and thrive. Since the start of 2020, Taco John’s has opened 37 restaurants, expanding into new markets such as Nashville, Boston, Cincinnati, and Grand Rapids, MI. Creel also orchestrated the brand’s recent opening of their new, state-of-the-art test kitchen and restaurant support center in Minneapolis, so key operating functions could be closer to existing locations and new market opportunities.
“I’m proud of the work we have done over my 24-plus years to make a name for Taco John’s and grow this brand across the country,” says Creel. “I’ve worked with many fabulous individuals to get us to this point and now is the right time to transition and let the next set of eyes provide a new vision. I believe in everything Taco John’s does and will walk away knowing that we did everything the right way.”
With its fusion of distinctive flavors and bold south-of-the-border spices, the Taco John’s menu offers several signature items – many developed under Creel’s watch – including the fan favorite Meat & Potato Burritos, Stuffed Grilled Tacos, and Fried Chicken Tacos. Creel also played a role in the development of the Taco John’s Mobile App and its popular Bigger Bolder Rewards loyalty program.
A proud graduate of the University of Wyoming, Creel is a Certified Public Accountant and a member of the AICPA and Wyoming Society of CPAs. During his time at Taco John’s, he represented the brand as a board member for 15 various non-profit organizations. Prior to joining Taco John’s, he was a partner at Chicago-based accounting firm RSM McGladrey, Inc.