The real reason Taco Bell will only pay some managers $100K per year

Working in fast food doesn't exactly have a reputation for paying the big bucks, even for those in management. According to PayScale, the average salary for a fast food general manager in the United States is around $41,000 a year. That's not bad, but it's not exactly lucrative either. Pile on an extra $60,000? Now we're talkin'. Taco Bell recently announced a serious pay raise of some of its managers with salaries that are in the $100,000 range (via MarketWatch). 

To put that in perspective, that pay isn't actually all that much lower than what a Taco Bell franchise owner would make. Not every Taco Bell manager will be making this much, however, and the fast food chain definitely has a strategic reason for offering the six-figure salary. 

It's Taco Bell's way of keeping employees

Food industry publication QSR Magazine's editorial director Sam Oches said that the salary bump is all about attracting better talent to its restaurants. "In today's environment, though, it's more competitive than ever," Oches explained (via WBUR). "And so some of these restaurants are looking for ways that they can invest in their employees so that they can limit their turnover and keep their employees at their restaurants and not go to competitors."

Considering that fast food restaurants are regularly engaged in everything from "chicken sandwich wars" to "fish wars" and "breakfast wars," this makes a lot of sense. Fast food restaurants see a lot of turnover at all levels, and the fast food manager job can be high-pressure with a constant demand for speed. Oches explained Taco Bell's hope that if lower-level employees see the high dollar potential, they'll be less likely to jump ship and opt for working their way up the ladder instead. 

The $100,000 salary will likely only come into play, though, at corporate-operated Taco Bells that pull in over $2 million a year. 

Taco Bell managers make more than McDonald's

Even at Taco Bells where general managers aren't making six figures, Taco Bell still seems to beat out many of their fast food competitors when it comes to pay. "If you're in a town with a McDonald's and a Burger King and a Subway and a Taco Bell, and Taco Bell's paying the most — there's gonna be more demand for that position," explained Oches. 

It's not uncommon for crew members in cities with a competitive labor market to make $10 to $12 an hour and GMs to make close to $80,000. A Taco Bell general manager on Reddit said their salary was between $55 and $70k — and that was eight years ago. For comparison, a McDonald's general manager on Reddit in 2017 said they made $45,000 a year. 

Money isn't everything, of course, but when there's not that much difference in the job duties, money really can make all the difference.