We’re busy over here racing toward the finish line on event prep for our annual Leadership Summit in Las Vegas! This year’s event boasts a flashy Formula 1® theme, paying homage to the upcoming Las Vegas Grand Prix racing event, which is scheduled to close down the Strip in November 2023.

After remodeling our Restaurant Support Center (RSC) in Las Vegas last year, we’re delighted to use this designated space to host our welcome reception the first night!


We don’t want to reveal TOO much about the agenda — after all, half the fun is in our big reveals at the live event! But we’ve secured an impressive lineup of female Taco Bell leaders as keynotes:

  • Kelly McCulloch, Global Chief People Officer, Taco Bell Corp.
  • Julie Davis, Global Chief Legal Officer, Taco Bell Corp.
  • Liz Matthews, Global Chief Food Innovation Officer, Taco Bell Corp.

New Initiative: Promoting Female Leadership

Why all women? At DRG, we’re stepping up our commitment to the development of female leaders within our company. This initiative originated with our all male Executive Team. It’s time to empower more women to sit at our head table! 

At DRG, we like to have fun and innovate (remember, we brought you EV charging at our south San Francisco location) — it’s part of company culture and our core values. But we’re also serious about growth!

DRG kicked off 2023 with a major milestone, reaching 300 Taco Bells nationwide.

We think this latest figure gives us bragging rights — that’s 10 times our founding acquisition of 29 restaurants in 2014!

Truthfully, DRG doesn’t plan to stop here. Company leadership continues to look to the future with “a goal of doubling revenue and store count in five years through acquisitions, new-builds and, potentially, a new brand,” as eloquently reported by writer Alicia Kelso of Nation’s Restaurant News. Read her full article about DRG’s exciting growth plans.

DRG’s Taco Bell portfolio includes a mix of traditional restaurants, “to-go” models and seven one-of-a-kind cantinas.

According to CEO SG Ellison, there continues to be ample opportunity in southern California for the cantina concept. Doubling as social experiences and event venues (our Vegas cantina is great for weddings), they’ve been a hit!

Alicia’s article highlights another essential point made by SG — no matter what, people will continue to be a focus.  We don’t grow without remembering employees come first (check out our benefits for proof).

DRG’s own SG Ellison recently interviewed with leading industry publication Restaurant Dive, as part of an update on the challenges and opportunities franchisees face in today’s market of “high development and operating costs.”

Senior reporter Julie Littman mentions several known restaurant brands in the article; SG represents the innovative, forward-thinking Taco Bell brand with comments on technological advancement, digital traffic and experimentation.

In the article, Littman reports on DRG’s use of the Taco Bell Go Mobile store format and shares SG’s expert insights on leveraging digital traffic: “I think there’s still a lot of room for growth in our order-ahead mobile apps as well as delivery,” she quotes him saying. 

SG also discusses development and financing challenges in the current market, and says there will still be opportunity for those “with decent cash positions and the ability to grow their balance sheets, or finance their development on their own.”

Read the full article to gain a better understanding of the latest activity in the franchising industry.


GM Estefania Ortiz started as a Food Champion with Taco Bell in 2011, when she first arrived in California from Argentina. Taco Bell became her first employer in the U.S. It was a short stint of eight months — she stayed just long enough to get a taste for the action.

Then three years ago, Estefania was given an opportunity to come back to the Taco Bell family as a general manager and that’s when she realized she could make a career out of this. Working at Taco Bell doesn’t have to be a hard stop on the career ladder, it can be a stepping stone to so much more.

“In a couple months, you can be Shift Lead and start building a career with the company,” says Estefania.

Estefania has now been with DRG for eight months; she’s still relatively new to management at her current location in Yorba Linda, CA. She says the transition was challenging, but she’s really happy with her position.

“It’s a big change, but it’s good,” she says. “With DRG, I feel like we have a lot of supportall day, every day, any time.

How does company leadership support managers like Estefania? With training, plenty of coaching and access to other development tools that help build great teams (pssssssst, great teams also need great benefits).

“You’re always going to have all the training tools, all the support and all the coaching available for you to succeed. -Estefania Ortiz, GM 

It doesn’t matter what, they are there for us,” she says. It turns out, Estefania had to test out this theory a few weeks ago!

“I had a little problem in the store and I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “I called my Director of Operations and he answered right away.” 

Together, they resolved the issue at hand and were able to move on quickly. Naturally, this rising star tries to show up in the same manner for her team. This positive work environment is only enhanced by the fact that our team members also enjoy themselves. In fact, one of our core values is that at DRG, we have FUN.

If you’re looking for a job, this will be awesome,” she says. You will have so much fun!”

Taco Bell took weddings to a whole new level by hosting the brand’s first ever metaverse wedding in February, featuring real groom and bride Sheel Mohnot and Amruta Godbole in an amazingly colorful virtual world. The live streamed event was inspired by the wedding chapel inside DRG’s flagship Las Vegas Cantina!

Out of this world: Real wedding with a real couple and real officiant in a totally unreal 3-D playground.


Taco Bell’s Metaverse Wedding featured:

  • A personalized wedding; 
  • An unforgettable virtual venue;
  • Unique wearables;
  • A DJ;
  • Live dance floor; and 
  • Tasty Taco Bell surprises.

According to People.com, following their metaverse “I dos,” San Franciscans Sheel and Amruta also enjoyed a live reception at our Pacifica, CA cantina. Read People’s exclusive interview with the lucky couple!

Visit the Metaverse

Want to see what all the hype is about? Visit the virtual venue on Decentraland until March 31, 2023, or read about how this cool, custom event came together. Better yet, book your own live event or wedding at a hip cantina today! From a sports bar to weddings on the Strip, a patio party to Xbox gaming, we can help you create a fun vibe for all.

Book Your Own Taco Bell Wedding

We’ve been marrying couples at our Las Vegas Cantina on the Strip since the debut of our wedding packages in 2017. To date, nearly 800 lucky couples have been legally married in our chapel! Book your wedding today.

Our very own SG Ellison was keynote speaker at #QSRNext, an all virtual industry event created to give those in quick service/fast food a convenient way to exchange ideas and learn from industry veterans like SG.

#QSRNext kicked off with a splashy promo video about DRG featuring COO Tom Douglas and James Amon followed by SG’s speaking engagement, where he called in live, from his office.

How a Franchisee Innovates with the Taco Bell Brand

The innovation and popularity of our Taco Bell cantina concept which “pairs craveable Mexican-inspired food with this amazing social dining experience,” continues to be buzzworthy. SG offers his perspective on how a Taco Bell cantina“elevates the brand” and also elevates the experience for involved team members and management. Watch carefully, there’s also a special nod to our private label Taco Bell wine from CEO David Grieve’s winery!

DRG operates six Taco Bell cantinas, all designed with their own unique themes (beachside, patio, sports, VIP lounge, X-Box gaming, urban chic). As far as how these restaurants have come to be, SG says that DRG “chooses the location based on what’s best for the trade area.”

Hear more of what SG and other industry leaders had to say during the conference by watching the full #QSRNext event on YouTube.

Jesus Vargas is a Senior Area Coach, responsible for all of our Taco Bells in Simi Valley, CA. He’s been with DRG for a year now and the brand for 25 years.

When Jesus first started working in the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry, there was no such thing as social media. Well, technically, he started the year that the very first social media site was born, according to this article. Today, as we actively invest in boosting our company’s presence on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, people like Jesus are seeing the impact of social media on recruiting and the next generation.

I really enjoy that social media helps so much in this process of getting people [on] board and getting them excited about growing in the company,” he says. 

One of Jesus’ primary passions is pushing others toward growth that provides them with a better life. 

I really enjoy doing that,” he says. “That’s a reason why I am still here.”

In 20-plus years of management with Taco Bell, Jesus has come to recognize the importance of inspiring those around him. He says people are often afraid of growing, but he’s found a way to motivate with a can-do attitude and bursts of encouraging words. Most recently, Jesus played an integral role in developing several other Area Coaches for DRG, something he’s very proud of. To him, he’s helping turn dreams into reality, jobs into careers.

“You need to really focus on gathering yourself the right people And helping them become successful,” he says.“Because opportunities are always going to be there for us.”

Success in our Taco Bells — speed of service, exceeding sales goals — benefits everyone, including our hungry, faithful guests. 

“Eventually all the successes are going to come … the end results are going to [be] opportunities for everybody.” -Jesus Vargas, Sr. AC

But it starts with doing the right thing, which is one of DRG’s core values. Growth doesn’t happen by cutting corners, Jesus is quick to point out.

I feel like doing the right thing in DRG or any other place means taking care of people and helping people to achieve their dreams,” he continues. DRG supports its own with scholarships and tuition assistance, opportunities to climb higher on the career ladder, and so much more.

Jesus reminds us DRG also places emphasis on having fun (another one of our core values). 

“When my director said, We have to have fun,’ I said, Oh wow!’” he recalls. Jesus didn’t have the “fun factor” before arriving at DRG. But there’s power in having fun — “people really need to love being in that place, working with everybody that’s there.” 

DRG has great culture, you will enjoy that.” -Jesus Vargas, Sr. AC

Jesus has definitely been a part of improving culture in our restaurants. He believes that that responsibility rests with leadership. It’s part of showing that leadership really cares about its people. And we do — DRG cares. So here’s to more fun in 2023!


DRG President and franchisee SG Ellison participated in an industry panel discussion at Restaurant Finance Monitor’s Restaurant Finance & Development Conference. The topic was scale and large multi-unit franchisees; SG participated with representatives from Flynn Restaurant Group, Beshay Enterprises and Bank of America. View the panel here.

Special highlights of SG’s comments on stage include: 

  • A firsthand account about his accidental start in QSR operations from commercial real estate, which evolved from a 4th of July chat and led to a series of sale-leaseback deals with then investor David Grieve (our current chairman and CEO);
  • An overview of key events in DRG company history;
  • His perspective on California Gov. Newsom’s signing of AB 257 and union activity;
  • Innovation at Taco Bell, including new technology like electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in parking lots.


Miriam Aguilar is the Restaurant General Manager (RGM) for our Riverside, CA Taco Bell. She has a fantastic track record, though she’s only been with us for four years. You could say Miriam has a magic touch for turning around struggling restaurants.

From the very start, we handed Miriam a challenge. She says her first Taco Bell in San Jose, CA, was in poor shape upon arrival, but she was able to quickly transform it into a best-in-class Signature Restaurant. Then she got pregnant, had a baby, took time off, came back to us … and found herself in the same position, different location!

But we knew we could count on her. Miriam works hard to “fix” restaurants and inspires teams to do better. In one instance, she became manager of a location that was understaffed.

I started hiring people and showed them that we can create an environment that can be fun,” she says. “… you know if the environment doesn’t feel good, I try to change that. Part of Miriam’s strength as a manager comes from her emphasis on improving team member attitudes. She believes making everyone feel important is key. And that dancing and “happythoughts” also help!

I always say to the people, You know what? Thank you for show[ing] up for work, this is very important to me.It is important for everybody, you know? 

This kind of personal attention from leadership can inspire the excellence needed to create a first class Taco Bell. We have specific metrics for achieving Signature Restaurant status that touch on customer service, drive-thru speeds, safety audit requirements, sales metrics and restaurant training expectations, and Miriam knows how to hit those targets!

So what does she have to say about being repeatedly tapped to turn restaurants around for the better? Miriam appreciates the challenge and feels a sense of accomplishment each time she reaches that coveted signature status. She’s grateful for company support.

“This company … they give me a lot of support,” she says about DRG. “That’s why I try to make a contribution to them to say thank you to them, because they help me.”

“They care about people, they care about me. – Miriam Alguilar, RGM

To Miriam, there’s lots of opportunity here. She doesn’t think many people understand what’s possible and yet DRG is at the ready to support team member development with bonuses, opportunities to climb the career ladder and great benefits. Miriam has made it her personal mission to make sure others know about these tools.

If I can do it, then they can do it, too.” – Miriam Alguilar, RGM

Most recently, Miriam asked if she could change locations to be closer to home. DRG was totally supportive. She couldn’t believe it! She says she was given time to move and finish helping her Assistant General Manager (AGM) transition into the lead manager role. Now, according to her, “that store is getting better everyday.” That’s what we call the “Miriammagic”!

At DRG, we’re más proud to see the beauty of our oceanfront Taco Bell Cantina in Pacifica, CA featured with such a captivating headline on Yahoo.com: 10 of the Most Beautiful Fast Food Restaurants in the World.

Writer Angela Pagán leads this “top 10” list with Pacifica, one of DRG’s six cantinas nationwide. In fact, it was one of only two U.S. restaurants to make the list! Beachside and beautiful, the Pacifica cantina is also No. 1 on Taco Bell’s own list of the coolest locations.

“It’s like a drive-thru for swimmers.” -@hectorfabiovideos, TikTokker


Need to see it to believe it? Check out Pacifica in this TikTok, which boasts aerial footage and close ups. Since voice over is in Spanish, we’re happy to translate the creator’s key points!

The Pacifica Taco Bell Cantina:

  • Offers the best views;
  • Serves liquor, like delicious frozen margaritas; and
  • Has a surfboard parking lot and walk-up exterior window it’s like a drive-thru for swimmers.”

Walk up or surf over today: 5200 Coast Hwy, Pacifica, CA