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With growth, Taco Bell will need to hire more employees and emphasize the importance of engagement and trust with team members, according to Creed. “If we do not engage, interact with, deal with and really amplify the relationship we have with our team members, we are crazy to have the expectation that the customer experience will improve,” he said.

“My belief is there will be a minimum-wage increase,” he added, “and obviously that health care will occur, despite the people who think it might get delayed.”

Taco Bell is working on things like shift leaves and reducing employee contributions where possible, he said. The company has also done a lot of work with franchisees to outline benefits to productivity with some of the coming changes.

With product launches, for example, Creed said the employees are the first to know what’s happening. For example, with the Doritos Locos Tacos Cool Ranch, the company made sure its employees knew first to tell their friends. Taco Bell also gave each employee five coupons for free meals to give to friends and family.

“We have 150,000 employees,” he said, “so suddenly I’ve got 150,000 people who are telling all their friends that we are launching this thing on March 12.”

Social media remains a big part of Taco Bell’s communication with customers and employees. Taco Bell headquarters has created a “Fishbowl” for tracking and amplifying stories related to the brand on social media, as well as tracking other brands. “You have to entrust 23-year-olds to protect or amplify the brand without the classic structure that organizations use to make decisions,” he said. “That’s why understanding the brand essence is so important, because they can respond in the voice of the brand.”

Through the monitoring of social media, the company found out about a rumor that a Taco Bell was headed to the small community of Bethel, Alaska. The company was able to capitalize on that opportunity by helicoptering in a truck to serve an estimated 10,000 tacos to Bethel residents.

The company is working on other ideas that aim to “take tacos to where tacos have never been taken before,” Creed said, which, in turn, has encouraged and excited employees.

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless