When Dick Reese and Don Ghareeb first inquired about getting into the Taco Bell business in 1988 in Alabama, there were only 2,700 Taco Bell locations in the United States. Most of the units were concentrated in the West and folks in the Southeast didn’t know how to pronounce “taco”. Dick and Don didn't know it, but their timing was exceptional. The following year, a period of phenomenal growth ensued as Taco Bell introduced U.S. consumers to the concept of “value” with low price tacos and free drink refills. Taco Bell locations have more than doubled in the past 24 years and Tacala has grown exponentially from one location in Columbiana, AL in 1989 to 247 locations in the Southeast and Texas.
Dick and Don: A 30 Year Partnership
Dick Reese and Don Ghareeb enjoyed 30 years of partnership and friendship, with half of that time spent as Taco Bell franchisees. Their skill sets and personalities complemented each other perfectly. Dick’s professional background was in finance, including experience with one of the “Big Eight” accounting firms. Don’s background from his teenage years was in foodservice operations, which served as a launch pad for a career in Quick Service Restaurants in a variety of management positions. Dick and Don met in 1975 while working at a regional hamburger chain and purchased that company in 1979, building it up to over 100 locations before selling it in 1988. It was during the sale of excess property that they became acquainted with Taco Bell. After Dick and Don met with representatives from Taco Bell Corp, they decided to retain some of the locations and become Taco Bell franchisees. Their partnership flourished until July 2005 when we lost our beloved co-founder, Dick Reese. Dick’s legacy lives on through the continued growth of Tacala and the many lives he touched.
At the end of 2012, Altamont Capital Partners, a private equity firm with $500 million of capital under management, acquired majority ownership in Tacala. Altamont selected Tacala as their first investment in the restaurant industry based on the company’s proven track record, as well as the strong company leadership which has remained in place. Don Ghareeb, Tacala Chairman Emeritus, assembled a strong team to continue the ideals that Dick and Don espoused from the beginning: take care of your customers, take care of your teams, and be good community partners. Tim Morrison, President since early 2012 leads the company on a day-to-day basis in partnership with Joey Pierson, Executive VP/CFO, and members of the Executive Team who work to ensure that we continue to grow to provide our customers with a great experience and our teams with strong opportunities for growth and development. Tacala locations have grown over the past 24 years through a combination of development and strategic acquisitions. Most recently Tacala added locations in Texas, previously owned by another long-time franchisee, Austaco. After 45 years as a Taco Bell franchisee, Austaco’s owners, Dirk and Katie Dozier, made the decision to sell the stores to Tacala based on our history of leadership and alignment with the goal to further Taco Bell business in some of the best communities in the country. We are excited to welcome Tacala Austin, formerly Austaco, into the Tacala family and look forward to working together to continue to grow the business in the years to come.