Mike Grams

Mike Grams

Chief Operating Officer (COO)

Taco Bell

Irvine, CA USA

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room—what you have to be really good at is recognizing when to call on someone else for their thoughts. If you can be an avid learner, it takes your doubt and turns it into confidence.


By Roadtrip Nation

Mike Grams


My road in life took a while to figure out.
The first 6 months with Taco Bell were very difficult. I focused on all the wrong things and was getting nowhere.
I had the ‘ah-ha’ realization that you have to be a leader of people before anything else. Results follow that.
In my late 20s, I was given the opportunity to take over a high-performing market. Turned out their results were masking a culture problem. They weren’t having any fun.
The lesson for me here was the importance of culture and how making people feel really good goes a long way.
Later, I took over a broken market. Adversity and defeat were deeply entrenched in the culture.
I knew we had to do a complete cultural reboot. Propping people back up and empowering them to recreate the culture themselves is one of the toughest but most rewarding challenges.
I moved to California and took the COO job. I knew what an incredible story there was about our people and I wanted to ensure that story was told in a way that fuels the business and drives decisions.
On the flip side, we had to get the people in our restaurants rallied behind the brand’s business objectives. When those two things are happening together, it creates unstoppable momentum.
Keep following my journey


High School


Chief Operating Officer (COO)

I lead the experience, performance, and growth of Taco Bell’s 7,000+ restaurants across the U.S.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Working with Others

Day to Day

Once the vision and strategy are set, it’s all about making people excited about the journey and helping them get there in meaningful ways. I spend a lot of my day walking around and catching up with the team. Everyone knows each other on a personal level. If I’m not in the office, I’m out in our restaurants doing the exact same thing. Of course, there is a lot of food involved too. I love taking new food ideas and figuring out how to execute them in our restaurants.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for high school students

Take that entry-level job and decide you’re going to be the best at it. Deciding that I was going to get as good as I could at my first job—sweeping floors and making tacos at 2 a.m.—ended up adding volumes to my long-term path. Everything centered around that early experience: I had to understand the ground-floor fundamentals of the business so I could understand how to bring people together and give them a feeling of purpose.

Recommended Education

My career is not related to what I studied. I'd recommend this path instead:


The Noise I Shed

"Earlier in my career, there were a few times I thought I was ready for the bigger job when I wasn’t. It was deflating to stand back and watch other people get opportunities ahead of me. "