Yum Brands today announced that Taco Bell CEO Mark King is retiring. He will be succeeded by the brand’s Global Chief Brand and Strategy Officer Sean Tresvant, effective Jan. 1, 2024. Tresvant will report to Yum CEO David Gibbs.
As CEO, Tresvant will be responsible for driving Taco Bell’s growth strategies, franchise operations and overall performance.
“Sean is a visionary business leader and best-in-class brand builder who is driving transformative R.E.D. (relevant, easy, distinctive) sales-powering efforts, from omni-channel initiatives to digital customer touchpoints, to accelerate growth and further elevate and differentiate the Taco Bell fan and team member experience,” Gibbs said in a statement. “Sean is laser focused on keeping our powerhouse Taco Bell brand at the leading edge of culture and redefining innovation in the industry. That’s why he is the ideal executive to continue successfully executing Taco Bell’s long-term global growth strategies and take them to the next level in partnership with the brand’s strong and accomplished leadership team and incredible franchisees. Sean, Mark and I will continue to work closely together over the coming months to ensure a seamless transition."
Tresvant joined Taco Bell in January 2022 as global chief brand officer and was promoted to an expanded role as global chief brand and strategy officer earlier this year. He has overseen the brand’s strategy, food innovation, architecture and design and global communications functions, as well as the Taco Bell International business. In his role, he has also spearheaded several “cultural moments,” as King described during Yum Brands’ investor day in December. Since 2022, for example, Taco Bell has teamed up with New York-based bakery Milk Bar, Beyond Meat, Los Angeles-based bagel food truck concept Yeastie Boys and sauce concepts like Yellowbird to keep its menu innovation wheel spinning. On the marketing side, the chain has caught a strong tailwind from partnerships with Doja Cat, Pete Davidson, Calpak, Crocs and more. Tresvant has also led the chain’s global marketing strategy as the brand expands its footprint into new international markets.
Prior to joining Taco Bell, Tresvant spent more than 15 years in leadership roles at Nike, including chief marketing officer of the Jordan Brand.
“The love our fans and team members have for Taco Bell is extraordinary and means we’re in a unique position to push the limits on culture and become a brand that inspires and enables the world to Live Más,” Tresvant said in a statement. “I’m grateful to have worked alongside Mark, and I’m incredibly honored and excited to continue partnering with our talented team and amazing franchisees on Taco Bell’s magic formula of brand buzz, innovation, value and digital initiatives to deliver industry-leading results in the U.S. and internationally.”
King led through the pandemic, international growth
King took over as CEO on Aug. 5, 2019, bringing with him extensive retail experience and a record of driving growth, relevance, and culture from his prior roles as president, adidas North America, and CEO of Taylor-Made-adidas Golf. Under his leadership with those brands, adidas became the fastest-growing sports brand in North America and doubled its market share, while Taylor Made-adidas Golf became the leading and most profitable golf company in the world.
Under King’s leadership, Taco Bell has pushed the gas on development, both domestic and international, the latter of which reached the 1,000-unit milestone in 2022. Development is hardly the only feather in King’s Taco Bell cap, however. The Taco Bell brand experienced just one quarter of same-store sales declines through the pandemic, for instance.
And, under his leadership, the brand inarguably gained top-of-mind share with its buzzworthy “moments,” like the Doja Cat/Super Bowl Campaign, the Mexican Pizza comeback (of which more than 20 million were sold in three months) and the Taco Bell Hotel & Resort in Palm Springs. During Yum Brands’ investor day in December, King said, “this idea of brand buzz drives transactions” and allows the brand to better connect with its core consumers.
“We’re asking the consumer to engage with our brand. We believe that engagement will lead to an extended life cycle with that consumer and more frequency, more purchases, higher check,” he said.
During his tenure, Taco Bell also balanced premium menu items (for example, the double steak grilled cheese burrito) with value offerings, like the $1 Double Stacked Tacos, $5 Grande Nachos Box and the launch of the Crave More Value Menu. Then, there’s Taco Bell’s digital business, which increased by about 60% year-over-year in Q1 2023. The company’s digital sales have been driven, in part, by its newest loyalty program launched in 2020, and an increase in Taco Bell Go Mobile concepts.
“Taco Bell, our employees and our world-class franchisee partners have thrived under Mark’s leadership as he and his team have accelerated the innovation, sales growth and unique brand identity that make Taco Bell an undisputed global icon,” Gibbs said in a statement, calling him “an innovator, risk taker and growth maker. “I want to thank Mark for his outstanding leadership that not only drove strong results but also inspired restless creativity and enabled a people-first environment for everyone to thrive. While we will miss Mark, we wish him well as he enjoys this new phase of life with his family.”
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]