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This has been season of big wins for DRG. As part of that forward momentum, we launched the Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) in April 2023, pinning the first cohort of 20 women at last year’s Leadership Summit. In the wake of the oneyear anniversary, were thrilled to announce that the network has more than doubled in membership!

WLN members receive unique career opportunities like access to networking, mentoring, and development tools. And, of course, well-deserved spotlights in companywide communications such as this! Members play an integral role in changing workplace culture for the better for women at all levels, while also growing their own potential.

Please join us in congratulating our newest WLN honorees!

Connie Bejar
Shelby Bowen
Angelica Chavez
Taylor DeNucci
Tania Garcia
Christie Glaeser
Griselda Godinez
Kelly Harden
Sofia Hernandez
Cecilia Ho
Amy Loya
Vanessa Martinez
Kacey McKay
Dion McKinnon
Tina Monfette
Alma Morales
Tamika Norah
Khrystyn Ortiz
Alicia Perez
Kara Ramirez
Rosa Rosales
Haley Stevenson
Deb Wendorf
Hayley O’Connor
Sierra Burk
Sarah Schneider
Diana Flores
Tanya Szabo
Debbie King
Ariana Gomez
Laura Fuentes
Victoria Eckert
Paola Heredia
Maria Villicano
Stephanie Juarez
Dolores Gonzales
Alexys Andaya
Tiyanna Mothershed
Jennifer Blesius

Service Champion Gracie Salazar is one ambitious young woman. We’re so lucky she’s kicking off her career at our Paris, CA, Taco Bell, because she’s proving to be an MVP-in-the-making!

Gracie just received $25,000 — the highest-dollar scholarship possible from Taco Bell Foundation’s Live Más program for restaurant employees!

Check out her impressive application video:

 

According to Gracie, she really didn’t think she’d win, so she was definitely caught off guard. Actually, several times, and we’ve had fun participating in all of the surprises!

“She’s loyal, she’s educated and she’s earned it.” – Gracie’s Relative

SURPRISE, SURPRISE

In April, Taco Bell Foundation flew Gracie to Las Vegas under the guise of her sitting through one final scholarship interview. Instead, this lifelong sports fanatic got to meet one of her fave players in person, Raiders’ wide receiver Davante Adams! The prearranged encounter timed perfectly with news that our very own Gracie had won Taco Bell Foundation’s $25,000 scholarship award. She says Davante was very excited for her.

But one surprise just isn’t enough when you live más, so sneaky us, we invited Gracie to come “work” on her day off and in the meantime, filled the restaurant with lots of special folks (including her parents, friends, close relatives, and even school officials) to witness receipt of the big check.

It was honestly a really big surprise,” she recounts. “I had walked in I kind of saw it was really packed and busy, and I was like, oh goodness, I’m going to have to deal with the rush as soon as I clock in.”

The rest of that celebratory day lives on in memory and photos!

EARLY INSPIRATION

Gracie’s scoring pretty high in life right now. She’s only been with Taco Bell and DRG for eight months, but is already experiencing this incredible support for pursuing her dreams.

So where did it all start? Gracie attributes her inner drive to her parents and grandparents.

“They have sacrificed a lot, working numerous amounts of jobs to just provide for us,” she says. “They were very hardworking despite challenges that we faced as a family. They’ve never shown, you know, truly a moment of weakness that allowed them to suffer.

Gracie plans to start at a two-year community college and then apply to universities with strong business programs, where she’ll focus on sports management and marketing. Her dream is to become general manager of a professional baseball team. 

Here at DRG, we applaud Gracie’s will to be successful in a male-dominated profession. Empowering women to rise up is part of our evolving culture!

Gracie’s not the only lucky scholarship winner. Check out who else received Live Más support this year!

 

Sofia Hernandez is as loyal as they come, having devoted her entire career to Taco Bell. She celebrates 43 years with the Brand in May! Sofia says she could retire, but she’s not at all interested in giving up work just yet. “I don’t want to,” she says. “I really love my job. I love the people I help.” 

“I just love helping others.” -Sofia Hernandez, Office Manager

When Sofia joined as a crew member in 1981, there were only seven Taco Bells in Nevada. Today, there are 80. She has worked every position in the restaurant setting and eventually became an Area Coach (AC). When our COO, Todd Kelly, approached her in 2016 about an office manager opening at DRG’s Restaurant Support Center (RSC) in Las Vegas, she agreed to give it a try.

Turns out, She was the perfect person for the job! While Sofia ensures the RSC (with over 50 in-person employees) runs efficiently, she also handles essential tasks like obtaining business licenses for new Taco Bells and pulling permits for existing restaurants. She says she does whatever she can to “help the brand look good.”

PAYBACK IS A BLESSING

For Sofia, the greatest satisfaction comes from seeing people she’s hired and trained continue to grow and succeed. She calls this her “payback!”
“What I like the most is to help people to … their potential,” she says. “And to achieve their goals … I feel that I get ‘paid’ by seeing the people that I bring up succeed.” Sofia’s humility and selfless devotion to others’ development is awe-inspiring; it’s no wonder she’s one of this year’s Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) cohorts.

“I am proud to be a woman and a leader.” -Sofia Hernandez, Office Manager

Sofia explains why she decided to apply for WLN and what it’s been like all these years to be a woman in the male-dominated Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry. “I was able to prove to the company that the job men can do, I can do,” she says. “I feel that the experience that I have and what I went through, it can help somebody else.”

At DRG, we celebrate women like Sofia, RGM Erika and AC Alma Morales who show grit and determination, and are fearless leaders in our company!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for one of our favorite reveals, this year’s Live Más Scholarship winners at DRG! Eleven ambitious individuals from within our company have been selected as recipients of Taco Bell Foundation’s supremely famous scholarship for restaurant employees, each securing $5,000 to $25,000 toward higher education pursuits.

DRG recipients have won a combined total of $120,000 in 2024 scholarship funds from the Foundation!

Here at DRG, we consider it an honor to be a part of anyone’s journey toward personal and professional fulfillment. With Live Más Scholarships and our tuition assistance program, we help make dreams possible!

Check out our winners and their diverse interests! A special “shout out” to sports lover Gracie Salazar, who was selected by the Foundation to be part of the non-profit’s national recipient reveal. Gracie, you go, girl!

 

Congratulations 2024 Live Más Scholars!

$25,000

Gracie Salazar, 039796
Passion: Sports

View Gracie’s Video

Melody Silva Gutierrez, 039842
Passion: Health and Fitness
View Silva’s Video

$10,000

Aidan Edmonds, 034411
Passion:
Technology
View Aidan’s Video

Anthony Mele, 031891
Passion: Medicine
View Anthony’s Video

Carlos Harris, 041597
Passion: Science
View Carlos’s Video

Yohanese Yilma, 031894
Passion: Medicine
View Yohanese’s Video

$7,500

Edosasere Amayo, 035242
Passion: M
edicine
View Edosasere’s Video

Arnold Mendoza, 039786
Passion: Medicine
View Arnold’s Video

$5,000

Diego Lopez, 031879
Passion: Creative Arts
View Diego’s Video

Evan Mertz, 031916
Passion: Business and Entrepreneurship
View Evan’s Video

Kimberly Rosas, 041595
Passion: Creative Arts
View Kimberly’s Video

 

The saying goes, “never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.” That’s certainly the case for Elmer Soto, Restaurant General Manager (RGM) for DRG’s Rancho San Diego Taco Bell location.

Elmer has been with the brand for 15 years and says, “every day you learn something new, and I’m still not done!”

Starting as a Shift Lead, Elmer worked his way up the career ladder to Assistant Manager and eventually the RGM role, where he excels today.

“I love what I do.” – Elmer Soto, RGM

Variety is the Secret Sauce

Variety of work is what’s kept Elmer around so long, he says. He enjoys working with everyone from those starting their first jobs to veterans who have been with the company 20-plus years. With the younger set, he says, “I’m always teaching them something.”

And with tenured team members, he says, “they’re teaching me something.”

Elmer admits that not every day on the job is perfect, but his team always celebrate their wins and help each other out on the rough days. That positive energy exchange is what keeps Elmer going. “Working with the people that I have is a treat every day,” he says.

“It’s limitless: where you can go with DRG.” – Elmer Soto, RGM

What’s one item on Elmer’s bucket list? Going back to school to earn his college degree. And thanks to DRG’s tuition assistance program, that dream can become a reality! 

“I know that if I wanted to go back, that [DRG is] there to help me get those goals,” he shares. “It’s comforting to know that at my age, I can still get it done.”

Continuing our great race to the top, the 2024 DRG Leadership Summit was another hype-filled gathering of restaurant leaders from all of our markets. Inspired by the excitement of the upcoming Summer Olympics and the endurance of incredible athletes (watch the momentum build!), we called on employees to elevate their game in 2024!

DRG GOAL ACHIEVED: Highest-grossing Taco Bell in the world!

We’ve lit the torch for 2024, now let’s kick into high gear and make things happen!

Summit Highlights

Our 2024 Leadership Summit took place at Green Valley Ranch in Las Vegas, NV. Over 160 Area Coaches, Directors, Managers and Office Staff descended upon the resort to celebrate company growth, DRG’s evolving culture and numerous other successes of the past year.

Opening Ceremony highlights included:

 

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR 2023 AWARD WINNERS:

GENERAL MANAGERS OF THE YEAR

Kayla Rodriguez, Kansas City
Elsy Perez, Nevada
Pedro Favela, No. California
Nick Mastrokostas, DRG Meats
Danny Mergil, So. California

CANTINA GENERAL MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Darren Espy, Nevada

AREA COACH OF THE YEAR

Sam Chima, No. California

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR

Isaiah Ritchie, So. California

MARKET TRAINING MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Jamie McCourtney, Nevada

FIELD SUPPORT PERSON OF THE YEAR

Jon Castro, Las Vegas (RSC)

SUPPORT CENTER PERSON OF THE YEAR

Garret Walti, Las Vegas (RSC)

GEORGE PSAROS – HELPING HANDS AWARD

Katherine Drake, Nevada

TOP PERFORMERS

SR AREA COACH

Mike Scheidegger, No. California

AREA COACHES

Chad Johnson, So. California
Dolores Gonzales, No. California
Jesus Garcia, So. California
Maria Villicano, So. California

GENERAL MANAGERS

Shereen Kasura, Nevada
Angel Rodriguez Diaz, So. California
Bryan Hermoza, No. California
Jennifer Guthrie, Kansas City
Jazmine Lucero, So. California

SUPPORT CENTER

Ramon Montoya, Las Vegas (RSC)

CORE VALUE WINNERS

LIVING OUT OUR VALUES AWARD

Gursimran Ghumman, No. California

WE DO THE RIGHT THING AWARD – Take Personal Accountability & Lead with Integrity

Alma Morales, So. California
Criselle Quiambao, Las Vegas (RSC)
Griselda Godinez, No. California

WE ARE AUTHENTIC AWARD – Be Yourself & Show You Care

Albert Green, Kansas City
Ron Rowe, Nevada
Sonia Hanson, Las Vegas (RSC)

WE ARE INNOVATORS AWARD – Embrace Change & Challenge the Status Quo

Laura Fuentes, DRG Meats
Shelly Camuso, Las Vegas (RSC)
Torey Wallace, Kansas City

WE HAVE FUN AWARD– Positive Energy is Contagious

Alexys Andaya, So. California
Crystal Velasco, Las Vegas (RSC)
Ravi Khilnani, Las Vegas (RSC)

WE WIN TOGETHER AWARD – As ONE DRG

Shane Grant, So. California
Teresa Jimenez, So. California
Yiovani Rodrigues, No. California

 

 

 

 

 

This month’s focus on women’s history closely coincides with the upcoming April 3rd anniversary of our Women in Leadership initiative, a companywide effort to propel more women to the top of our business. It’s been an exciting first year!

“We didn’t know how it was going to pan out,” initiative co-lead and Communications & Media Manager Sierra Burk shares honestly. “We knew leadership wanted to develop and recognize our women morebut the challenge was showing that this isn’t just a ‘nice to have,’ but that it’s a really meaningful program and a catalyst in our people development efforts.”

Sierra Burk is one of DRG’s most passionate advocates for creating a more inclusive culture.

DRG launched the Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) (formerly known as Women in Leadership or WIL) on April 3, 2023, pinning its first cohort of 20 women at last year’s Leadership Summit.

Along with deserved recognition and cool swag, WLN members also received career opportunities like easier access to networking, mentoring and development tools.

The greatest benefit — to DRG as a whole and those touched personally — is that women reported feeling more valued and empowered, according to Sierra.

“More women came forward and said they wanted to move up,” she says. “I think we’ve really got ladies that are just hungry for more.”

Culture Shifting

Prior to the 2023 launch of the WLN, Sierra says there really wasn’t an outlet for DRG women to share, connect or be heard.

“Women were just kind of running with it, trying to roll with the punches,” she says. “This past year, women really felt that we cared — that they were heard and understood.” 

It’s no secret that DRG executives have historically been all men. In fact, until the WLN was introduced, Sierra was the only female featured on our leadership page. With the recent hires of Debra Wendorf, Senior VP of Human Resources, and Kara Ramirez, VP of Operations – Royal City Bell, we’re working hard to change that. We’re also celebrating rising stars like Area Coach Alma Morales and General Manager and Certified Training Manager Corinne Canavan for their achievements.

“I think our company’s really good at being a leader of change.” – Sierra Burk, Communications & Media Manager

2023 Highlights

Year one of the WLN was the building phase and revealed important learnings, according to Sierra.

“A lot of it was about putting all the pieces together,” she says. “Those pieces work. Now, how can we create even more connection?”

In October, DRG held an interactive Women’s Leadership Virtual Conference that drew together DRG leaders men and women from all five markets. It was a hit! “The Leadership Team was like, ‘Wow this is really cool,’” Sierra says. We made huge strides for the program this day, capturing the interest of employees and continuing to prove how valuable it is.

Plans for 2024

“This year we get to dig a little deeper,” Sierra says. To her, it’s about deepening relationships and connection, and harnessing the passion of these women. 

Approaching the Network’s first anniversary, Sierra and the newly formed Women’s Leadership Council (which includes 2024 women’s initiative co-lead Hayley O’Connor, DRG’s Field Training Leader; last year’s co-lead Katrina Davis, DRG’s Kansas City HR Business Partner; and five others) hosted a recruitment period and formalized the application process. The result? This year’s cohort doubled the size of last year’s! Forty women comprise our 2024 cohort.

About DRG’s Women’s Leadership Network (WLN)

The WLN is open to DRG area coaches and above, and office personnel. The 2024 application period is now closed but those interested in being considered for 2025 are encouraged to apply during the annual February application period (previous cohorts may also reapply).

 

WLN members play an integral role in changing workplace culture for the better while also growing their own potential. Program perks include:

Congratulations to our 2024 WLN inductees! We look forward to another history-making year!

As Women’s History Month continues, we want to highlight another woman leader in DRG and give insight into what it’s like holding a leadership position as a woman in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry. The majority of the crew-level population across the nation are women, yet that number drastically declines as you reach the executive level. QSR Magazine states that, according to a study done by The National Restaurant Association, only 38% of QSR executives identify as female.

Not only is it important to provide resources that facilitate professional growth for women, it is equally, if not more, important to tell their stories. Erika’s story embodies the experiences of countless women in the QSR industry. Maintaining conversation around women leaders amplifies representation and paves the way for new possibilities.

It all started with a chalupa. Erika Bernal was getting a bite to eat while visiting a family member at work when she was encouraged to join the team at DRG’s Taco Bell restaurant. What was Erika’s response? “Sure, why not?” 

Five years into the job, this Restaurant General Manager (RGM) has grown her family AND her career. “I love it,” she gushes.

Erika was a stayathome mom of two when she joined Taco Bell in 2019. In that role, “I was very, very busy 24 hours a day,” she shares. Since then, Erika has had three more children, which means flexibility is key to her success at work and at home. “Flexibility means a lot,” she says.

“I love the customers. I love what I do.” – Erika Bernal, RGM

As an RGM, “you have to be on top of everything,” Erika asserts. Fortunately, she has a great team to help make each day day a little smoother. “We’re all family,” she says. And like most families, theres a lot of growth.

 

Never Stop Learning

“We learn every day from everyone,” Erika shares.

In fact, Erika stresses the importance of turning to tenured Taco Bell team members, some who worked on the team for 15 to 20 years, to learn from their experiences. “We learn, we grow. It’s exciting,” she says.

In addition to learning from those around you, Erika’s advice to current and future team members: be positive. Fortunately, with fun co-workers and some pretty great job perks, that should be an easy request to fill. 

“They have a lot of opportunities,” Erika says. Like DRG’s tuition assistance program, which helps employees go back to school in pursuit of their education goals.

“We have a lot of fun.” – Erika Bernal, RGM

Erika loves being an RGM, but shed love to one day earn a spot at our Champions’ Club reward trip for top performing leaders. We can’t wait to see you there!

DRG is thrilled to announce the opening of our new Taco Bell location at 15498 State Avenue in Basehor, KS, marking a significant expansion for our company in the heart of the state!

“Our local leadership and team are excited to bring Taco Bell to the residents of Basehor. We appreciate Mayor Drennon, council members and school personnel who have all taken time to welcome us to the community,” says Christie Glaeser, Director of Operations for DRG’s South Kansas and Missouri market. “We look forward to serving guests with sincere hospitality, a clean environment, and quality food.”

Restaurant General Manager (RGM) Darius Green shares that the State Avenue team is very diverse, and this newest Taco Bell location is near a major highway for excellent visibility. 

Darius joined Taco Bell as a team member and worked his way up to the RGM role (see DRG’s career path). As driven as he is, it’s no surprise that Darius’ favorite part of the job is development. “I love to watch people grow,” he shares.

In the market for  growth opportunities and a fun working environment? We’re looking for Assistant General Managers! Apply online here. 

In March we celebrate Women’s History Month. As a team made of 54% women, DRG has committed to programs, events, and discourse that prioritize the personal and professional development of women. Our company could not operate at the level it does without the strong women on our team who largely contribute to our success. This month we will highlight just a few of the women in our organization that positively impact our teams every day.

Meet Area Coach (AC) Alma Morales, who oversees our San Diego County locations. She’s grown into a strong leader for the DRG team and continues to go above and beyond in everything she does. 

To be a Golden Bell winner is already a high honor. And still, Alma is part of an even smaller group of top-performing Taco Bell managers. She’s not only won the Golden Bell award two times, but one year, she received it for two restaurants simultaneously!

“It’s really hard to achieve Golden Bell,” she says. But achieving Golden Bell for both of your stores at the same time, it’s a very proud moment that I have in my Taco Bell career.

“You can achieve whatever you want.” -Alma Morales, Area Coach

Alma’s career spans 18 years (and counting). She started as an Assistant General Manager (AGM) and as her career with Taco Bell took off, she became Restaurant General Manager (RGM) and next, a Multi-Unit Manager overseeing two Taco Bells. Today, as an AC she manages seven locations!

 

Work + Family

Regardless of her growing level of responsibility, Alma still prioritizes her three children, her “pride and joy.”

My secret is enjoying quality time with my family,” she says. Even if the quantity of time she has with her family can be limited, she adds, it’s the quality of the time she spends with them that helps her balance it all.

For Alma, winning a Golden Bell reward trip to Hawaii is even more special when you can bring a plus one. She shares that this provides a chance for family to share in celebrating your professional growth.

“It’s the family [that] get to see what you’re doing and why you’re sacrificing yourself,” she says. “When you come to work and you have those long days, or those hard days … it all pays off.”

Grow Big (or Go Home)

“At no point [have I] felt that I have limits,” Alma says of DRG. “ They always encourage you to go for it — go get it — and motivate you.”

With DRG, Alma sees innovation and even more opportunity. 

She also appreciates DRG’s tremendous support system  and genuine care for team members. She references our Employee Assistance Program — the DRG Cares Fundand scholarships.

“They are so big about scholarships,” she says. “They believe in the future that we have.”

DRG wants a great future for its people.

Taco Bell is about believing in people, growing people, teaching people and developing people,” she says.

So, what’s next for Alma? She’s not entirely sure but with Taco Bell and DRG, the sky’s the limit!

Want to work with great people like Alma who inspire and motivate? Find your job today.