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The ‘Geniuses’ at Taco Bell May Actually Be Geniuses

Everybody please give a round of applause to Taco Bell for figuring out a major part of the equation that all major, corporate fast-food chains have been ignoring. They created an in-store position that has an income that will likely attract some MBA graduates among other highly qualified candidates.

Taco Bell recognizes that they must take a proactive approach when it comes to attracting talent in the fast-food industry. More people than ever are achieving college degrees and are more reluctant to work in fast-food. As a proactive approach, Taco Bell is testing a $100,000 manager salary at certain company-owned store locations, expected to begin later this year.

It is no surprise that wages in the fast-food industry have remained rather stagnant overtime. Some companies have test runs offering higher pay, attractive benefits, and paid time off, but not all companies have coupled all of these into their formula. Taco Bell’s test run might not only set them aside from their competitors, but it may put them well ahead of the competition.

On top of the $100,000 manager salary, Taco Bell has offered all employees at company-owned store locations at least 24 hours of paid sick leave, which started on the first of the year. Taco Bell is doing for employees what fast-food chains have not traditionally done in the past, and may be able to compete with other industries for talent.

Fast-food chains offer promotion from within as well as hire from the outside. General Manager positions are often filled with people who are not trained in the art of management. Instead, they have been a part of the company for a number of years and rightfully rose to the position of General Manager. While this is an admirable success story, it is in my opinion that these chains ignore the cost of not hiring someone who is educated in management.

Management is no easy task. Put overly simply, management requires you to make someone, who often makes less than you, perform a task that you are unable to perform, for whatever reason. Not everybody is equipped with the necessary leadership skills for management. Often, you can teach someone management, but the best managers have already been building their resumes in the field.

You should have a basic understanding of motivational theory. Usually, and especially in the fast-food industry, the tasks that you are ‘inspiring’ others to complete are mundane and repetitive. As a GM, you have little influence over compensation because corporate usually sets their price of labor, so you have to utilize tactics outside of compensation as a manager.

If you are unaware of other available methods, you may utilize traditional methods of leadership that may have been used by previous managers before you. Outdated motivational theories could cost companies a ton if utilized regularly. For example: Fear used to be a totally acceptable form of motivation. You would hear that leaders “ruled by fear.” Ruling by fear is effective in producing results, but that’s really the only category where you’ll see success.

Ruling by fear decreases retention. When employees leave, these chains are tasked with attracting, hiring, training, and retaining new talent. This comes at major costs to these businesses, because they can attract, hire, and train a new employee, and then lose them two weeks later. Although companies have found a way to decrease these costs, arguably at the cost of quality candidates, the process still has a major price tag. Anyone who has worked in the fast food industry understands the revolving door of employees. The fast food industry also understands this revolving door, which is why they have begun offering attractive benefits packages.

What these companies have been ignoring, and Taco Bell has recently discovered, is that the problem of retention may be because of their current manager structure. Maybe having managers whose knowledge and skills are limited to the industry only drives away employees who otherwise would have worked for the agreed upon wage for a longer timeframe. This, in return, costs these businesses and the cycle continues.

Taco Bell may have changed the game. Taco Bell’s new salary will attract people who have the goal of graduating and landing a six-figure position. I, personally, knew many individuals who didn’t care what they were doing, as long as they were making that kind of money. Furthermore, there is nothing shameful about being a General Manager at a fast food chain. The job is very difficult, very demanding, and often thankless. It takes a dedicated individual to take on that workload, especially at the previously lower salary. By giving the title of ‘General Manager’ the credibility of a six-figure income, highly qualified candidates searching for experience while enjoying a comfortable salary will certainly be attracted to the position.

Compensation isn’t everything, and Taco Bell is well aware of this fact, illustrated by their promise of 24 hours of paid sick leave. A $100,000 salary coupled with attractive benefits packages will certainly attract talented individuals into a field of work that they may have never otherwise considered.

The impact that talented management has on retention is left to be seen, because the problems of retention could be explained by the low wages currently offered as well as many other factors. Taco Bell is the first in the industry to take the approach of attracting talented management outside of the fast-food realm and, arguably, into the professional realm. It will be interesting to see what results from this new approach to fast-food management. Perhaps if successes do occur, Taco Bell and other fast-food chains will consider increasing wages store-wide.

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