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Fueling The Future – Lori’s Story And Impact

Lori T. (She/Her) - Region Leader, Taco Bell Corp.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) Pride Month is celebrated annually in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. Today, celebrations include parades, picnics, parties, workshops and more – unifying millions of participants around the world for a month of solidarity. Not only is Pride Month a time to celebrate diverse backgrounds and unique experiences, but also a time to recognize the worldwide impact and accomplishments that LGBTQIA+ individuals have had and continue to have.

This year’s NYC Pride theme is “Reflect, Empower and Unite”. To honor this month and our people, we’re amplifying the voices of those in the LBGTQIA+ community who are growing their careers at Taco Bell.

“I’m an ex-Spartan, and one of my favorite obstacles is climbing the eight-foot wall. I would say this is the way I view my personal and professional life. It’s about seeing something in your way and either going through it, around it or over it.”

Lori was big on sports while growing up in Houston, Texas. You could say it truly created a foundation for her outlook on life and the type of leader she is today!

“I started in tennis but switched to soccer and softball, which made me very team oriented. Although my asthma put me in this box where I was told I couldn’t do certain things either, it really helped me shape my competitive spirit.”

Lori’s 20s were a challenging time. While working two jobs, maintaining a full college schedule and a scholarship to make ends meet, Lori struggled to find her career calling. At the same time, she was on the path to figuring out her sexuality and also found out she was adopted.

Through these ups and downs and working in the restaurant industry, she eventually obtained a degree in hospitality and joined Taco Bell as an Assistant General Manager right away. But when asked about her job by family members, she was met with scrutiny.

“My grandpa asked me why would I work in the quick service industry. Fast forward eight years, the conversation came up again and he told me how proud of me he was for having courage and sticking up for my career choice.”

Lori went from working in the restaurants to being a Franchise Business Coach, Market Coach, Senior Manager in Operations at Taco Bell headquarters and to her current role of Region Leader, moving to different locations to pursue her aspirations. Along the way, she met some cool people.

“Every time I thought of leaving, I got a challenge to grow and do more. Taco Bell truly invests in people, and when times get tough, this Brand has a proven track record of doing what’s right for its people. Taco Bell is more than just a quick service restaurant, it’s a life-changing Brand to be part of that gives back and takes care of your family. And that’s why I’m here 30 years later.”

It’s no doubt that Lori’s professional career has been fruitful, but at the same time, she has faced many challenges. Remember that eight-foot wall? For Lori, one of her obstacles was being her authentic self and growing her career as someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I never really talked about my identity at work. It wasn’t until my Market Coach and I were at a National Restaurant General Manager conference that I came out to him. Then, I was asked if I was comfortable enough to share my story on a national call, so I did. I remember crying because it was tough to be so open with who I am. It was hard to not feel afraid of getting rejected, but it was a blessing as it opened doors for more conversations and change.”

Lori recounts Yum! Brands Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, James Fripp calling during Pride Month one year to tell her about the newly added same-sex benefits.

“James called me to share the news, and in that moment, I just remember not being able to believe what the company I’m working for is doing for its people. It made me more comfortable with who I am and proud to be working for a BRAND that gives back to others and accepts everyone.”

When it comes to paving the way for a successful career, Lori advises the following:

“I always say to have courage and not to be afraid to say what you want, because at the end of the day, you’re driving your own career.”

And looking to the future, Lori hopes to continue developing the next generation of leaders until she retires.

“I’ve been here for 30 years, so when I retire, I hope to leave a team of leaders that will continue to succeed and take us to the next level for the next 30 years.”

For now, you can find Lori living Más in Florida with her wife of 18 years, traveling, taking care of their three cats and spending time with family and friends.