I've never worked at a Taco Bell, but I have worked fast food. The manager job seems, to me, to be a mix of business management, scheduling, HR, food preparation, job training, and babysitting. After all, fast food restaurants are often staffed by first-time jobholders who need a bit more hand-holding than people in other industries.

It's not an easy job. In light of that, Taco Bell just announced that they will start paying some managers $100,000 a year to run their restaurants. While they haven't given a date or specified precisely which stores will have these new highly paid managers, they have said it will be focused on the Northeast and Midwest. Current salaries range from $50,000 to $80,000 according to MarketWatch.

This is a brilliant move

Managing a restaurant is not easy, and managing it well takes knowledge, skills, ability, and hard work. To keep such talent, you need to pay a fair market value. People may argue that a fair market salary is what you could earn at other fast-food restaurants, which is only partially the case. Anyone who can successfully manage a restaurant can do other jobs that pay more. You have to not only look at your direct competitors but companies where your employees could also work.

Not to mention, some fast-food restaurants are already paying big bucks.  In-N-Out Burger has an average manager salary of $160,000. They've learned that when you pay well, you can attract a higher caliber of employee. Better employees make for a better customer experience.

You can bet there will be stiff competition for these jobs, which means Taco Bell can be selective about who they hire.

Will this increase fast-food salaries overall?

The fight for $15 an hour focuses on entry-level jobs, but we can see that the free market brings about salary increases as well and can do so more effectively. When other businesses want great employees, they know that they will compete with places like Taco Bell and In-N-Out, who are paying top dollar.

Hopefully, we'll see not only the top person rewarded, but that many people will get an increase. After all, it hardly makes sense to have assistant managers earning $20,000 a year and then the manager making five times that. And Taco Bell announced there would be new leadership roles that offer experience and, hopefully, a good pay increase for an individual contributor. This is an important step, and many businesses would be wise to remember that you cannot have a great company without great individual contributors.

Will this affect prices? Perhaps. Taco Bell has a strong reputation as a cheap place to get a meal, and this will probably continue. And when teenagers go to get their burritos, maybe they should pick up an application and make a career about it. The Taco Bell path can lead to a better salary than many white-collar jobs. Plus, delicious breaks.

Published on: Jan 11, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.