How Liz Matthews Marries Envy and Responsible Dining at Taco Bell

I may be biased, but I have one of the coolest jobs and best teams around. I lead Taco Bell’s food innovation team and the brains of our famous test kitchen. Whether you’re enjoying a limited-time food offer or a classic menu, my team plays an important role in bringing delicious food innovations to your plate.

I grew up on Taco Bell and loved how I could access a whole menu of flavors with even just a dollar. But I went to California State University to study psychiatry. One semester, I took a nutrition course. It was a pivotal moment when my interests changed and I ended up going to school for food science and nutrition. Later, I found myself in the manufacturing space. I knew I wanted to come home to the LA area and found Taco Bell. For more than two decades, I’ve worked to ensure our fans don’t have to choose between envy and responsible dining. Everyone should feel good about their Taco Bell order, every time.

Throughout the past year in particular, my team and I have been busy fulfilling our ongoing commitments to our fans. We are always listening to them. In 2021, we tested or launched everything from Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco to Naked Chalupa with a Crispy Plant-Based Shell. We’re constantly developing unexpected menu items that everyone can enjoy, whether they’re flexitarians or veggie-curious.

Not only do we want our food to be unique and irresistible, but we also want it to nourish people’s lives with good. We’re on this exciting journey that we call our Food For All journey, where we’re constantly evolving our menu to ensure we offer foods that fit every lifestyle. Over the years, we’ve done everything from reducing sodium and eliminating artificial colors to sourcing only eggs and chickens raised without human antibiotics.

I’m also proud of our work to leave a lighter footprint. With thousands of restaurants, we understand our responsibility to have a positive environmental impact. We have made a global commitment to ensure that all of our consumer packaging is recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025…yes, all of it. We launched a partnership with TerraCycle, wWe generate demand for unwanted recycled materials and even reuse used cooking oil in some restaurants.

We have a lot more in the works for the rest of 2022.

What was your first job?

I’m originally from Los Angeles and started working in restaurants when I was young. Starting as a hostess, I continued to take on various roles in the restaurant over the years and worked my way up.

What’s your favorite menu item at Taco Bell?

I grew up with the Burrito Supreme and it will forever be my favorite.

What’s your favorite food besides Taco Bell?

Super difficult question because I love everything. I would say behind the Mexican, it would have to be Japanese… Sushi, Udon, Ramen, Soba.

Who inspires you as a leader?

Right now it’s this new generation. I have inspiring teenagers and they look nothing like I was when I was a teenager! Young people around the world are teaching us so much about the past, present and different ways of thinking about the future – opinions are positive, optimistic and not sugar coated. They see real big opportunities for change and work in small and big ways towards real solutions. They create such momentum for our future.

What’s the best advice other restaurant managers should hear?

Always listen and observe. I am no longer the consumer or a member of the team that works in the restaurant. Your team members know so much about the business and have amazing ideas. Consumers, those who love you and even those who dislike you, can lead you to amazing ideas. Often people can’t express what they want when it comes to food, so I love watching people eat and creating moments with food. It can be very insightful.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

Honestly, food is also an important part of my personal life; I remember my key life memories through the food I ate during them. So, I love trying new foods and restaurants, and LA has the best! I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and being active outdoors.

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