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Team member spotlight: Leah Ruuti


Leah Ruuti was just 16 when she started working at store 1828 in Grand Rapids, MI. Since that day, she hasn’t looked back. “Of course there were other things I thought I’d grow up and do,” Leah says with a laugh. “But ultimately I just completely fell in love with the Taco Bell brand.”

Today, Leah is a key leader and recently promoted region coach in Michigan. While she’s only been with Border Foods since the acquisition, she’s spent a total of 33 years with the brand. We caught up with Leah to get to know her better and pick her brain about leadership, teamwork and of course, Taco Bell.

BF: It’s obvious that you’re proud of your job. Where does that pride come from?
Leah: The brand is a big deal in West Michigan. When I tell people that I work at Taco Bell, they respond with “that’s cool.” I’ve just always been very proud to work for Taco Bell, even when I wore brown polyester years ago!

BF: What was your transition to Border Foods like?
Leah: Personally, I was excited to get going with Border. I immediately fell in love with Sharla Hennek and Jeff Williams. And once I met Carol Williams, I was sold. I’ve always been drawn to kind, strong women. In Carol, I saw someone I would follow to a cliff and jump off for. Her effervescence radiated through her the day I was introduced to her, and I immediately trusted her. I lead with Carol in mind each day. And then, of course, when Scott joined us last August, his big, bold, friendly personality wowed our team. He saw the best in me and enabled me to continue my journey with Taco Bell.

BF: Name one thing you’re doing that’s working.
Leah: When we have a restaurant that’s struggling, we band together and do a “re-set.” A re-set allows the restaurant to get reorganized and back on track. I plan a time to visit the location with the four area coaches on my team, and the five of us work together to identify areas of weakness and implement change. I believe a cluttered environment creates a cluttered mind and disorganized leadership. So, we clean up the office, the communication board, the front of the house and the back of the house. So far, the teams who’ve been part of a re-set have been receptive and grateful.

BF: What advice would you give to another Border Foods leader?
Leah: Make real connections with the people on your team. Make time to understand their goals and implement a plan to achieve them. Use direct, clear communication with your team, but do it with a smile.

BF: As we look at 2018 and beyond, what can we expect from you?
Leah: I want everyone on my team to have the “green metric experience.” I want Michigan to be more competitive in comparison to the other Border Foods areas. I want our area to be a force to be reckoned with!