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Sealing deals with a handshake and a taco

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership

As Taco Bell neared its 50th anniversary, Greg Creed had mounting concerns. Creed, the fast food chain’s CEO, knew that many of Taco Bell’s customers were in their 20s.

“Turning 50 makes us sound old, and I didn’t want to sound old,” Creed says.

Creed decided to commemorate 50 years with a unique twist: He challenged his creative team to reinvent the crunchy taco and devise a new, exciting product.

In a 2009 meeting, his brain trust bounced around the idea of a Doritos-­flavored taco shell. After more than two years of testing the shell, Taco Bell made the prototype available in late 2011 in a few of its restaurants. This generated excitement and momentum for a wider rollout.

But despite working closely with Frito-Lay, Taco Bell still had not signed a contract to partner with the company that made Doritos. So as the date neared for a major launch, Creed invited Frito-Lay’s CEO to a meeting where they forged a handshake deal.

“We both realized that if we let the lawyers get involved, this thing would get bogged down,” Creed says.

Creed’s eagerness to forge ahead without an official contract paid off. In the first 70 days of the wider rollout, the company sold an astonishing 100 million tacos.

“If we waited for those contracts, we would’ve sold 100 million less,” Creed says.

In the end, the company rolled out its Doritos Locos Taco in time for its 50th birthday. The new product has proven a blockbuster hit, sparking a 13% jump in sales. The company hired 15,000 em­­ployees to serve all the customers lining up for the Doritos Locos Taco.

— Adapted from “The Hard Sell at Taco Bell,” Austin Carr, Fast Company.


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