Ringing The (Taco) Bell

This year, Taco Bell is going to be experimenting with a new approach to recruiting qualified restaurant managers:  in certain labor markets, it has announced it is willing to pay an annual salary of $100,000 to managers of company-owned Taco Bell stores.

taco-bell-kiosks-digital-strategy-qsrThe Taco Bell initiative is a response to a very difficult labor market for employers.  With the current unemployment rate at historic lows — the product of a strong job market and lots of aging Baby Boomers moving into retirement, among other circumstances — there just aren’t many good candidates out there.  So Taco Bell is going to test, in certain markets in the Midwest and Northeast, whether paying a $100,000 salary brings in a better crop of candidates.  That represents a significant increase over the current starting salary for Taco Bell store managers, which ranges from $50,000 to $80,000.

The Taco Bell manager initiative isn’t the only evidence of a tight job market and wage pressure.  The article linked above notes that other companies operating in the fast-food restaurant market — typically the classic source of low-paying, entry-level jobs — are reporting wage pressure affecting their margins.  Just this week the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in the fourth quarter of 2019, “median weekly earnings of the nation’s 118.3 million full-time wage and salary workers were $936, an increase of 4.0 percent from a year earlier ($900).”  The BLS statistics show wage growth in 2019 above the rate of inflation (which was about 2 percent) in all age categories except workers between 55 and 64, with workers in the 25 to 34 age range showing especially strong wage increases.  And the BLS wage statistics indicate the labor market is particularly good for women, with median weekly earnings for women in 2019 up by 6.2 percent.

Imagine — making a six-figure income as the manager of a Taco Bell!  Your parents never would have thought it was possible.

Capturing The Moment

Every once in a while a TV commercial aptly captures the prevailing zeitgeist and popular culture of the moment in a way that ponderous news articles or pontificating academics simply can’t match.

So it is with the classic, current “sunset heart hands” commercial for Taco Bell, which makes me laugh every time I see it.  It’s not only hilarious, it also deftly skewers the phony, social media-obsessed, it’s all about the photos world in which we now live.  Faced between a choice of eating some tasty chicken rolled tacos and taking another pointless Instagram photo, what self-respecting person wouldn’t opt for the tacos — even at the price of a snarling girlfriend?

A New Weather Name, Awfully Late In The Game

Until a month ago, when severe thunderstorms and strong wind gusts devastated electric power service to most of Columbus, I’d never heard of a “derecho.”

It turns out that a derecho is a line of thunderstorms that produces widespread, damaging “straight line” winds.  Today, when another black, gusty thunderstorm cell rolled through town, people were talking about derechos again.  (Whether Columbusites are pronouncing the word correctly is another question.)

Isn’t it kind of late in human history to be coming up with new names for weather?  I’ve lived in the Midwest for most of my life, and severe thunderstorms are not uncommon during the summer months.  Until now, they’ve just been called severe thunderstorms, which seems like a more than adequate descriptive phrase.  Why not stick with that, rather than coming up with an unpronounceable, unknown term?

And while we’re at it, why do new weather systems always get Spanish-sounding names?  First El Nino, then La Nina, now derecho.  It sounds like the name of John Wayne’s ranch in The Sons of Katie Elder, or perhaps the moniker for a new Taco Bell faux Mexican concoction.  A derecho probably would involve browned meat, smoked bacon, Velveeta cheese, habanero sauce, and ranch dressing, sprinkled with crushed Doritos and wrapped in a soft taco shell.

No doubt some college student would drive hundreds of miles, through countless severe thunderstorm cells, to give it a try.