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Taco John’s knows how to treat customers, staff

Bill Corrick has been managing restaurants for most of his adult life, and for the past 32 years has been director of operations at the Taco John’s in Fairfield.

Corrick, who has earned the nickname “Taco Bill,” has an ownership stake in the business and manages not just the Fairfield location but Taco John’s restaurants in Burlington, Clinton and Galesburg, Illinois. Over the years, he has developed a keen sense for how to keep his customers satisfied so they keep coming back, and how to keep his employees happy so they stick around, too.

One of the biggest challenges in the industry is turnover. Corrick said it takes time to train new employees, and new employees are more prone to make mistakes, so a good owner and manager will find ways to keep turnover low. Corrick discovered a way to do it that shocked other restaurant managers when he told them, but which he says has allowed him to maintain an experienced workforce who enjoy putting on the company uniform each day.

Corrick said his years of experience taught him a valuable lesson about employees, that very often they prize time-off more than money. Years ago, he noticed that employees would fabricate all sorts of reasons why they needed time-off because they knew it was hard to get. Rather than investigate each claim, Corrick told his managers and assistant managers that they could take time-off for any reason whenever they needed it, provided they gave him four hours’ notice. That would give him time to cover their shift no matter which of the four locations he needed to be in.

The new policy has produced tremendous results. In the last seven years since Corrick implemented the policy, turnover has gone way down. Now his managers and assistant managers are staying on for their fifth, 10th or even 15th year with the company. It’s had the added benefit of giving Corrick a chance to check in at each branch to talk to the customers and workers in that town.

“I would fill in as the manager or assistant manager for that shift, and it gave me insight into how to improve that location,” Corrick said.

Corrick said he doesn’t mind driving to another town at a moment’s notice. His children are grown now, so his work hours are more flexible. He’s learned to budget about 20 hours per week of filling in for his managers and assistant managers. Corrick is encouraging his managers to adopt the same policy for the employees under their supervision.

A graduate of Panorama Community High School, Corrick attended the University of Northern Iowa and obtained a degree in business with an emphasis on human resources. He initially wanted to become a teacher and coach but switched to business when a number of his friends decided to go into it, too. One of those friends was a high school buddy who was Corrick’s roommate for a while before dropping out of school to manage a Godfather’s Pizza. The friend told Corrick the store was looking for help, and asked him if he’d like to come aboard. By sweeping floors and baking pizzas, Corrick was getting his start in the restaurant world.

Corrick went on to run Godfathers Pizza outlets in Davenport, Bettendorf, Dubuque and Muscatine. After being promoted to regional training director in Minneapolis, Corrick decided that the big city life was not a place to raise children and took an opportunity to move back to Burlington with Godfathers.

One day, Corrick was flipping through the newspaper and noticed an advertisement for a multi-manager position in Fairfield. Corrick applied for the position, got it, and the Corricks and Taco John’s have been together ever since.

"After moving to six different communities in five years, Fairfield was the first town where I enjoyed my store and the town."

A decade after his hire, Corrick became part-owner of the business. He oversaw and built Taco Johns stores in new locations at Burlington (2014), Clinton (2015) and Galesburg (2016). He’s now responsible for about 100 employees at his four stores, which includes his son Alex, who manages the Burlington branch. Corrick said it was difficult at first to get his son to come work for him, because Alex knew his dad would hold him to a higher standard than everyone else, just as Corrick had done as a coach with his other children Samantha, Austin, and Carin, who all have worked at Taco John's. His wife, Pam, who he likes to call "Potato Ole Pam," helps promote Taco John's as she is active on social media. She loves to meet people at garage sales and auctions, and is a financial planner with AIG.

One of the perks of being the director of operations is that Corrick gets to sample the food for quality control. He said his favorite dish from Taco John's is the good old regular crispy taco, made with 100 percent real beef. He said eating a taco never gets old for him because he just finds a new way to doctor it with vegetarian beans, grilled chicken, sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo or many other toppings.

Members of the public may not know this, but the term “Taco Tuesday” is a trademark owned by Taco John's. The restaurant has always been famous for its discounted tacos on that day, but Corrick said it produced such a rush of customers that at one point it was difficult to manage that one day. He had to hire extra staff to work on just Tuesdays.

He hit upon the idea of promoting discounted tacos not just on Tuesdays but Mondays and Wednesdays as well, which made it easier to provide staffing for all three days. Corrick said he had to end that extended promotion last year, due to the lack of employees, though Taco John's continues to offer $0.99 crispy tacos every Tuesday. Corrick invites residents to see why Taco John's tacos are the best tacos in town for only 99 cents.

Bill Corrick stands outside the Fairfield Taco Johns, where he has been director of operations since moving to town in 1989. Friends and acquaintances know him by his nickname “Taco Bill.” (Andy Hallman/The Union)
Bill Corrick said the commonly used phrase “Taco Tuesday” was coined by Taco Johns decades ago. The company continues to offer discounted tacos on Tuesday to this day. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
Fairfield Taco Johns’ director of operations, Bill Corrick, loves his cars, such as those seen here in the restaurant’s parking lot, a 2010 Chevy Camaro, left, and 2021 Chevy Corvette. Also pictured in the background is a solar array built by Ideal Energy that powers Taco Johns. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
Bill Corrick, Fairfield Taco Johns’ director of operations, has earned the nickname “Taco Bill,” as seen here on his license plate. Corrick is also a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa. (Andy Hallman/The Union)