Jackie Trujillo

Jackie Trujillo

Alan J. Liddle

From her vantage point as a recently retired leader of one of America’s most historic and largest privately held restaurant companies, Jackie Trujillo of Harman Management Corp. sees executive-suite turnover as a threat to foodservice.

“I think one of the biggest challenges companies face today, especially public companies, is that they don’t have [executive] loyalty,” says Trujillo, the Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2004 Pioneer Award recipient.

“Some people think that they can’t stay with a company too long, that they need to get out and go from one company to another,” she continues. “That might be OK for them because they are getting more experience. But I believe that to help a company be successful for a long period of time, you have to believe in and love that company and want to help it succeed.”

Trujillo, reputed to be a master mentor and consensus builder, knows a thing or two about loyalty and its benefit to companies and employees.

In June she retired as chairman and chief executive of 63-year-old Harman Management of Los Altos, Calif., a company for which she had worked 51 years starting the summer after she graduated from high school. The company operates 340 KFC quick-service chicken restaurants in California, Colorado, Utah and Washington, many of which are co-branded with Taco Bell and A&W outlets.

Harman Management revenues for the year ended in June were $391.4 million, an increase of 3.73 percent over the results for the prior year.

In semiretirement as chairman emeritus, Trujillo will continue to attend company board meetings and other important functions. She says she also will continue to sit on the board of directors of Yum! Brands Inc. of Louisville, Ky., parent of the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains, and intends to stay involved with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, or NRAEF.

Trujillo’s successor as chief executive and chairman, James Olson, is a 37-year company veteran, and other upper-management team members have put in 30 years or more. According to Trujillo, that sort of commitment to the company and the company’s reciprocal commitment to promote its own is not lost on employees, who also react favorably to founder Leon W. “Pete” Harman’s guiding philosophy that personal success stems from helping others succeed. “Our [hourly employee] turnover last year was below 100 percent,” she reports. “And managerwise, we’re at around 11 percent.”

Harman Management founders Pete Harman and his wife, Arline, helped make restaurant history when, in 1952, they became the first franchisees of the late fried-chicken entrepreneur Harland Sanders. An honorary, governor-appointed “Kentucky colonel,” Sanders was inspired to franchise to others his fried-chicken recipe, and that inspiration spawned a worldwide chain that today comprises approximately 13,000 KFC restaurants.

The Harmans and their employees are known for helping to develop some of the systems or practices that helped the small group of independently owned coffee shops licensing “The Colonel’s” fried-chicken recipe evolve into a chicken chain. Pete Harman is credited with developing or promoting three of KFC’s earliest signatures: the takeout bucket, the term “Kentucky Fried Chicken” and the slogan “It’s finger lickin’ good!”

Harman Management also is known for its employee incentive programs. The company annually sponsors weeklong meetings in resort areas for top-performing managers and their spouses and lets the top two managers in each restaurant invest in the enterprise. Since 1958 a percentage of every company restaurant–up to a maximum of 40 percent–has been owned by employees. Hourly restaurant employees and other support staff, by region, each year are treated to a company-sponsored picnic.

Olson, Trujillo’s successor, recently told the Association of KFC Franchisees Quarterly, a newsletter, “Pete Harman created the model for the organization, but Jackie has been very influential in making that model work for the 51 years that she has been in Harman Management.”

Trujillo joined Harman Management in 1953 as a carhop at the original, fullservice Harman’s Card in Salt Lake City. Plans to attend college that fall were put off a year and then indefinitely after Trujillo lent money to a family member in need and decided that working at Harman’s “was a pretty good job.”

By working at virtually every station in the restaurant, she became store manager and then part of the team that helped open new units. In 1961 she was named company training manager.

Looking back, Trujillo says she counts among her most satisfying accomplishments at Harman Management the compilation of the company’s first training and procedures manual. “With that responsibility,” she explains, “I had an effect, I believe, on the training and education of our people.”

Insight into the heart of the KFC concept came with the creation of that manual, which later served as a model for the growing chain of restaurants then known by the name Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“I had the opportunity to visit Colonel Sanders in Kentucky and stayed in his home for three days: he taught me the correct way to fry chicken,” Trujillo recalls. She says the lessons made their way into the procedures manual and “stayed with us for a number of years.”

In 1989, when Trujillo was vice chairman of Harman Management, she joined the new Women’s Foodservice Forum. She says she at first wondered, “How can I help these women achieve the things they want to achieve?” Then she realized, “I was an example to them. They could look at me and say, ‘Well, Jackie did it, so we can do it.'”

Few women could serve as a better role model.

Among other achievements, Trujillo, as a multi-unit manager, saw her division lead others within the company seven years out of eight. In 1983, encouraged by her husband, Herb, she moved from Utah to Los Altos, where the company earlier had relocated its headquarters, and was named vice president of operations. Within four years she was promoted to vice chairman, and seven years after that she became chairman and chief executive after Pete Harman retired.

“The inspirational piece for me is that Jackie took a no-nonsense approach and absolutely, positively took her company to greatness,” says Julia Stewart of the Glendale, Calif.-based IHOP Corp., who calls Trujillo “extremely talented.”

“She is loved, revered and respected, and everyone in the industry knows it,” adds Stewart, one of Trujillo’s earliest associates in the Women’s Foodservice Forum.

Beyond serving as a role model, Trujillo says she has “helped to mentor women so that they believed in themselves.”

Trujillo says her advice to would-be corporate-ladder climbers often entails these three themes: “Let someone [in management] know what you want; be willing to accept the responsibility; and understand and have the knowledge it takes to help the company succeed.”

“Be patient” is another favorite saying, she adds. Interestingly, Trujillo says her own company found that some of its female employees were unclear about their career options as recently as the late 1990s.

“We assumed that they already knew that [that they could advance] because here I am in a top position, and we have other women in top positions,” Trujillo says. She speculates that some women left the company after rising to shift supervisors because they either were not encouraged to advance or were afraid they could not take on more responsibility and care for their families at the same time.

Trujillo says her outreach efforts and those of other women in upper management have helped restaurant-level female employees better understand “the opportunities at Harman’s and how you can manage around” potential conflicts between job and family. Among the positive results, she says, “In the last year or so we’ve seen increases, sometimes threefold, in the amount of women we have in either first or second ]unit manager] positions.”

Mary M. Adolf, NRAEF president, says she, her staff and foundation board members all have benefited from their association with Trujillo, who was chairman of the educational group for the 2002-2(X)3 term.

“Jackie is a woman of incredible integrity and is a very open and honest communicator,” Adolf says. “As chairman of the foundation, she was always very cognizant of making sure that every dollar was spent in the best interest of the industry.”

As a mentor, Trujillo is “a great supporter” who “is always there to provide insight, help and direction,” Adolph adds. She says organizational changes made by the NRAEF following her appointment as president in 2001 were influenced by Trujillo, who is “amazing” when it comes to “making sure you look at situations from a lot of different perspectives.”

Trujillo also has been active in the California Restaurant Association and the CRA Educational Foundation, and recently has served as chairman of both organizations. For her contributions to the industry and the CRAEF, she was inducted into the CRAEF Hall of Fame in 2002.

“One of Jackie’s greatest attributes is that she can keep everyone on an even keel and draw a consensus. She’s a person who can get her point across without being confrontational,” says Don Conley, who succeeded Trujillo as CRA chairman in 2000.

Conley, proprietor of Jack’s Grill in Redding, Calif., says Trujillo speaks only when she believes she has something important to contribute. “So when she stands up to talk, you listen.”

Trujillo has expressed pride in being presented a Silver Plate Award for operational excellence in 1997 by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association, an honor bestowed on her mentor Pete Harman in 1990. And she says she feels good about “inspiring others” and speaking before college and university students.

Recounting perhaps her most important message to students, Trujillo says, “I tell them, ‘Happiness comes from living a good life and caring about other people.'”

Jackie Trujillo

Title: chairman emeritus

Company: Harman Management Corp., Los Altos, Calif.

Annual sales: $391.4 million

No. of units: 340

Cheek average: not disclosed

Career highlights: learning from founder Pete Harman; creating Harman Management’s first training and procedures manual; mentoring HMC co-workers and others; addressing students

Hometown: Logan, Utah

Education: high-school graduate; honorary doctorate, Johnson & Wales University, 1991

Personal: married, three children, seven grandchildren

Hobbies: playing golf, walking, reading

COPYRIGHT 2004 Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group