Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed, 54, has overseen the fast food chain in one of its most explosive periods of growth ever. Since he became CEO in early 2011, the company introduced the wildly popular Doritos Locos Tacos in 2012, debuted a Cool Ranch version last month, and now sells about one million Doritos Locos Tacos every day.
Next from Taco Bell’s test kitchens is the spicy Doritos Flamas taco, based on Frito Lay’s chili-lime flavored Doritos, which is Creed’s personal “favorite.” He expects to launch this newest menu item in the second half of this year.
“It’s an amazing product. It’s spicy but it has a lime aftertaste,” Creed said. “You bite into it…You feel this real spiciness, and then the Frito Lay people are so magical with their seasoning, you get this lovely lime spiciness that sort of cools your mouth.”
Creed explained how one taco, the Doritos Locos Taco, helped create 15,000 jobs for the Yum! Brands subsidiary. Taco Bell says it has 150,000 team members in its restaurants nationwide.
“It’s very possible because two things happened. One is we grew the business,” he said, adding that Taco Bell’s sales grew by 8 percent last year.
Second, it helps if you add two or three employees to each of Taco Bell’s 6,000 locations.
“And that’s great, it makes us feel really good,” he said. “It’s great we sold lots of tacos and it’s great for our shareholders, but if you can get 15,000 people off the unemployment line and give them jobs -- that to me is giving back to society. That is having a social conscience in doing the right thing. That’s really important to me.“
Another way the company is trying to do the right thing is with a plan to have 20 percent of combo meals meet the government’s nutritional guidelines for calories and fat by 2020.
“There’s no simple solutions for very complex problems. And there’s no doubt obesity is an issue, so I’m not denying it,” Creed said. “And that’s why we are trying to add more and more items, we’re doing more work, in the twelve months there will more new products coming out that will have even lower calorie count, lower sodium, lower fat.”
Creed said there was no “silver bullet” to the issue of obesity.
“So I think what we have to do is our part of the story. We’ve got to continue to make our food better in the sense of less sodium and calories,” he said. “We’ve got to offer choice and we’ve got to encourage people to try these products. And hopefully they’ll eat better. But ultimately it comes back I think to individual choice, but we’ve got to give you the choices to choose from.”