How Much Taco Bell Franchise Owners Really Make Per Year

Here's a fact that may just make you spew your Baja Blast all over your screen  — Taco Bell is America's favorite Mexican restaurant. That's right, forget about all those lists of "the best Mexican restaurants" floating around the web that heap praise on tiny L.A. taquerias. Apparently, they don't have anything on the Bell — or, at least, they simply don't have the sheer number of restaurants to garner those votes. According to a 2018 Harris Poll of more than 77,000 people, Taco Bell has been voted the top Mexican restaurant in the country.

While this may bring a tear to the eye of every Mexican restaurant without a Quesarito on the menu, it's undoubtedly good news for Taco Bell. Fox Business reports that Taco Bell is on a quest to open another 2,000 brand new locations by 2023 because Americans simply must have more access to Doritos Locos tacos. For the franchisees (and future franchisees) of Taco Bell, this means profit.  

Taco Bell franchise owners make a good salary

Across the board, fast food franchise owners make a good annual salary and pull in a pre-tax income average of around $90,000. That's nearly double the annual income of the average American (via The Street). So how do Taco Bell franchise owners stack up when compared with others in the fast food franchise game? Well, they may not be making hand over fist amounts of cash more, but they can expect to earn an annual income of between $80,000 and $100,000 per restaurant (via Franchises for Sale). That's not bad for a place where it seems like just about everything on the menu uses the same four ingredients. 

According to Franchises for Sale, one of the big appeals is that Taco Bell franchise owners are often making that income right out of the gate in their first year of business. A big reason for this is because of the sheer amount of advertising that Taco Bell churns out. Obviously, a fast food place that's confident enough to open its own hotel knows what it's doing when it comes to marketing. 

What does it cost to buy a Taco Bell franchise?

While owning a Taco Bell restaurant can be pretty lucrative, if you want to "Live Más" you're going to need to be ready to put down some serious cash. Aside from the company's $45,000 startup fee, Business Insider estimates that opening one can cost anywhere from $1.2 million and $2.6 million. 

A large portion of this cash is for the real estate and building the restaurant, plus all the fancy equipment you'll need to make those Crunchwrap Supremes. If you're lucky, you might be able to score an existing Taco Bell location, but that will still set you back anywhere from $175,000 to $1.4 million. Obviously, this no small chunk of change, which is why Taco Bell only lets those with deep pockets take ownership of its restaurants. 

Taco Bell has some steep financial credentials for franchise owners

Because the cost of opening a Taco Bell is so high, Taco Bell requires that potential investors have a net worth of at minimum $1.5 million, and $750,000 of that should be in liquid assets. They also like investors who have some restaurant industry experience. If a person can manage to meet these demands and secure a location, they do have the luxury of absentee ownership, i.e. kick back at the beach and watch the profits roll in (via The Balance). You won't find that sort of lax attitude with a Chick-fil-A franchise

If you don't have $1.5 million and the thought of spending $2 million to build a Taco Bell makes your head spin, there may be one alternative. In early 2020, Taco Bell announced that some franchises may begin paying managers $100,000 (via MarketWatch). These would be company-owned restaurants rather than franchise-owned, but still, that's a franchisee salary without having to put up your own money to build the place. 

How does owning a Taco Bell compare to other franchises?

According to The Balance, as of 2018, Taco Bell was leading Yum! brands (KFC, Pizza Hut) in terms of sales growth, and the average yearly sales per store were around $1.6 million. Those numbers are certainly nothing to scoff at, but when it comes to the competition, Taco Bell has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with McDonald's and Chick-fil-A. Those chains racked up an average of $4.7 million and $2.8 million sales per store — with Chick-fil-A leading the way (via Barrons). Pretty impressive for a business that's only open six days a week

As far as annual salary goes, McDonald's franchise owners take in an average of $150,000 a year and Chick-fil-a operators can pull in around $200,000. What can we say, maybe burgers and chicken are just more popular than tacos?