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 23 years and Tacala has grown exponentially from one location in Columbiana, AL in 1989 to 164 locations in the Southeast.
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. Though very engaged in the business he preferred to operate “behind the scenes”. 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, including operations and marketing. Don was equally dedicated to growing the company and operated more on the "front lines". 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. Taco Bell responded to a real estate ad that Dick placed in the Nation’s Restaurant News. 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.
Tacala locations have grown over the past 23 years through a combination of development and strategic acquisitions. Don Ghareeb, Tacala Chairman Emeritus, has 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. A key strategy to making this possible is to grow the business so resources are available to achieve these objectives. In the beginning of 2012, Don named Tim Morrison President of Tacala to lead the company on a day to day basis. Tim and the rest of the Executive Team including Joey Pierson, Executive VP and CFO, Marjorie Perlman, Marketing, and Michael Border, VP of Development and Facilities, 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. At the end of 2012, Altamont Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area, acquired majority ownership in Tacala. Altamont selected Tacala as their first investment in the restaurant industry based on the strong company leadership which has remained in place, as well as the company’s proven track record. Altamont has $500 million of capital under management and is focused on investing in middle market businesses where it can partner with leading management teams to help them reach their full potential. Their principals have significant experience building business success stories across a range of industries, including financial services, consumer/retail, industrials, healthcare and business services.