Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | March 2016 | By Robert Thomas

Start to Finish: Paul Murphy

Paul Murphy, CEO of Del Taco, talks about how his leadership helps to define the company's culture.
Top Mexican QSR chain executive talks inspiring company employees and culture.
Paul Murphy is the CEO of Mexican quick-serve giant Del Taco. Del Taco

I was 27 years old and working for an independent casual-dining restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, when I realized that I enjoyed the high energy and challenge involved in this industry. I was drawn to the possibility of evolving business for the better, as well as the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships along the way. Combined with some hard work, my position at Del Taco is due to the wonderful, smart people I’ve met along the way.

I’ve come to appreciate what everyone brings to the table in this industry. Whether it be creative, strategic, or passionate efforts to further the success of this brand, it’s always a motivating factor for me working with such a talented group. In 2015, Del Taco became a publicly traded company, which was a huge milestone for a 50-year-old company to achieve. This success is a direct reflection of a company-wide commitment, and I’m continuously inspired watching those around me grow and succeed with a brand we all believe in.

When I get the opportunity to look back one day, I hope that my contribution not only created more opportunities for employees, franchisees, vendors, and investors, but ultimately helped bring the “Unfreshing Believable” experience to as many guests as possible across the country. I believe leadership defines culture, so it’s also important that I’m remembered as someone who genuinely cared for people and led by example. I think as much as I have a fiduciary responsibility, I have a moral one to acknowledge and respect the lives of those I work side by side with.

Del Taco is constantly evolving to meet our guests’ tastes and demands. In recent years, we launched healthier menu options, such as turkey tacos, Fresca Bowls, fresh-sliced avocado, and Handcrafted Ensaladas. We still offer guests the best value and variety in the industry with our Buck & Under menu, but we’ve struck this perfect balance that allows us to serve the fast casual–quality food our guests demand at a quick-serve price point and convenience.

What was your first job?

Dishwasher at The Joshua Tree Restaurant in McLean, Virginia.

When did you first enter the restaurant industry?

In 1979, at Littlejohn’s Delicatessen in Virginia.

What is your favorite dish at Del Taco?

The Double Del, Chicken, Bacon, and Avocado Ensalada, and the Shrimp Tacos.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

Fly fishing, sailing, snorkeling, and traveling.

Which menu item or operational strategy are you most proud of?

The 2013 launch of the Combined Solutions Strategy, a multifaceted business model designed to align the Del Taco brand promise with the guest experience.

What is the best piece of advice quick-serve executives should hear?

I’m a firm believer in the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. It’s simple but a powerful pillar of good ethics, good business, and good people.

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