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Alumnus Adam Jarboe Bringing Innovations to Keep Taco Bell Ringing

Thursday, February 26, 2015
Adam Jarboe

Innovative Engineer: Adam Jarboe is manager of Taco Bell's restaurant transformation division. He earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering (2005) and a master's degree in engineering management (2007). He earned the Alumni Association's Distinguished Young Alumni Award in 2014. (Photo by Terry Miller)

Adam Jarboe isn't taking steps to create a better taco or burrito, but the young alumnus is examining innovative ways for Taco Bell to streamline its production processes to keep the company at the forefront of the competitive global foodservice marketplace.

Since last October, Jarboe has been manager of Taco Bell's restaurant transformation division within Yum! Brands, one of the world's largest restaurant companies with upwards of 41,000 establishments in more than 120 countries and territories.

Jarboe previously spent six years leading sustainability initiatives around the world for all of the company's brands, which also include KFC and Pizza Hut. He developed and led an energy savings competition associated with the popular Biggest Loser television show, and defined global standards and tools for new restaurants to be sustainably designed.

In his new role, Jarboe is focused on transforming Taco Bell's kitchen equipment and operations through innovative practices.

"I'm now looking at our same-business concepts through a completely different lens, and that's a fun learning curve," he says. "This is an exciting time to be with Taco Bell. We are constantly innovating kitchen equipment and processes to maintain profitability and provide great-tasting products."

These innovations feature the process for preparing ingredients, the equipment for heating ingredients, and the equipment for maintaining consistent temperatures for ingredients. The innovation cycle has been forced to keep up with an ever-changing foodservice industry while aligning with the interests of stakeholders (corporate, franchisees, and suppliers). It now takes less than a year for a key innovation to go from concept to national rollout to more than 6,000 Taco Bell restaurants, Jarboe notes.

"Taco Bell is focused simultaneously on step-change and incremental change in our many processes. That makes things even more exciting," says Jarboe, who works out of Taco Bell's international headquarters in Irvine, California. "The challenge is satisfying our customers with desired products while responsibly conducting business, which adds to the top-line growth. At the same time, we need to do it in a way that's profitable, which contributes to bottom-line growth."

Jarboe received a Yum! Stock Award as a member of the firm's sustainability team. He researched, tested, and simplified the process for predicting daily electricity usage, resulting in the opportunity for $40 million in annual global savings. He also led market testing and technical analysis of Internet-based thermostats, bringing annual savings worth $7 million.

At Taco Bell, Jarboe's sustainability efforts have led to energy- and water-usage reduction strategies that have improved in-store operating margins.

Jarboe earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 2005 and added a master's degree in engineering management in 2007. Along the way, he was a leader in the Student Alumni Association and a resident assistant.

His involvement with Rose-Hulman has continued as leader of the Young Alumni Council, member of the Alumni Advisory Board, and an alumni mentor for the Triangle fraternity. He was recognized with the Alumni Association's Distinguished Young Alumni Award in 2014.

"I am thankful for what Rose-Hulman has done and continues to do for me," Jarboe says. "Being involved with the Young Alumni Council afforded me the opportunities to stay connected with campus and connect alumni with the institute. Just as Rose-Hulman wants to see me, and all, alumni succeed, I want to see Rose-Hulman succeed. That's a win-win for both sides."