by Lisa Thompson
Toney Livingston might not look like the poster child for work-life balance. He and his wife, Sandy, own a successful Tacos 4 Life restaurant in Texarkana. He’s also the market president of Bank OZK in Texarkana, and he and Sandy are raising two productive teenagers.
It sounds like a lot, but that may be why maintaining that balance is so important to Toney. “It’s obviously a struggle every day to balance it all with everything going on,” Toney said. “The time spent at the bank and the restaurant itself could take up every hour. The key is open communication. If there’s a time my family feels like they’re not getting a husband or a dad, they have to speak up. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking me, ‘Do you really need to go back to the store?’”
Toney said he likens his work-life balance to the comic book character The Flash.
“But I don’t have his speed!” Toney said. “I have a lot to do and only so much time to do it. Most people tell me I walk too fast, and it is definitely a juggling act. As a husband and father, I have to make sure I connect with my family. As market president of OZK, I have to make sure I am growing the bank and taking care of our customers. As the owner of Tacos 4 Life, I work to motivate our leaders to ensure the operation is efficient so we can raise as many meals as possible every day to save lives around the world.”
Toney graduated from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., with a bachelor’s degree in business and an MBA. He’s been in banking for over 20 years, and in 2014 he moved to central Arkansas to open a pizza restaurant.
“When Sandy brought it to my attention that there was a franchise opportunity with Tacos 4 Life, Texarkana was our very first choice,” Toney said. “We just knew it would work here.”
“I love food,” Toney said. “Especially pizza and, of course, tacos. While we never dined at Tacos 4 Life, we loved the idea of the mission and submitted a request for more information on becoming a franchisee. After a couple of calls with the Tacos 4 Life franchise team, we decided we’d better go try the food. We made the trip to Benton, Ark., and the Korean BBQ and fried chicken tacos sealed the deal for me.” Toney said his favorite part of owning a restaurant is the people he gets to meet and serve.
“I love getting to know our guests,” Toney said, “and seeing them excited about fresh food, and being a part of our mission. I also enjoy getting to know our team members. Everyone has a story and a personal life outside of our business. Sometimes we get to make a difference in others by just being a light. God has blessed us, and we want to bless others.”
Toney said the restaurant’s mission makes the work they’re doing every day more rewarding. Not only are they providing meals for people who are hungry, but they’re also providing opportunities for the community to get involved in a hands-on way.
“Tacos 4 Life believes hunger is the world’s most solvable problem,” Toney said. “As a guest at Tacos 4 Life, you have the unique and exciting opportunity to help end childhood hunger around the world. Our strategy is simple—for every taco, bowl, salad, quesadilla or order of nachos purchased, Tacos 4 Life donates $0.24 to Feed My Starving Children, our non-profit partner.”
Toney said FMSC has developed a scientifically formulated MannaPack Rice Meal that provides children with the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. Twice a year, Toney and his team organize a packing party for the meals they are donating.
“Our Meal for Meal program is a great hands-on mission opportunity—we get to pack the meals raised at our restaurant right here in Texarkana,” he said. “We invite our guests to join us and volunteer at our Mobile Packs. FMSC comes to Texarkana with all the ingredients (rice, soy, veggies, vitamins) needed to pack meals, but we usually need about 800 volunteers at each event.”
Toney said volunteers at a May event packed more than 108,800 meals. The next event will take place in the fall, and Toney invites the community to follow Tacos 4 Life Texarkana on Facebook to stay engaged.
Toney said he is motivated by the mission of Tacos 4 Life, and he’s also intrinsically motivated by his faith.
“The ability to make an impact on someone else drives me,” he said. “Amazing craft tacos is the vehicle we use to raise thousands of meals every week. I want to see an end to children suffering from a preventable cause, and hope starts with food. I want to help give millions around the world hope.”
The first decade of his life was a dark time, Toney said.
“My dad died when I was 4, and my mom went down the wrong path,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of hope—there was no guidance. By God’s grace, I was taken in by my grandparents around age nine. They brought consistency to my life. I became a Christ follower at a young age, and I always knew God was going to use me to help others.”
Toney has already shared his drive to help others with his children. Toney and Sandy’s two teenagers, Gabe, 16, and Maddie, 14, seem to be natural entrepreneurs. Gabe works at Glass Doctor, and Maddie has a successful business, Maddie Cakes. Sandy homeschools the two and does accounting and bookkeeping for the restaurant.
Toney’s connection with his kids starts with intentional quality time. Then, the balancing act begins.
“Coffee first!” Toney said. “My kids both get up with me every morning to have a shot or two of espresso to fuel the day. I sometimes drop by Tacos 4 Life before going to the bank, but most days I start at Bank OZK. I lead commercial lending from Texarkana up to Arkadelphia, and then I spend most of my lunch breaks at Tacos 4 Life checking on the team and visiting with our guests. After my day at OZK, I typically go back to the restaurant for a bit.”
After that, Toney heads home to spend time with his family and prepare for another busy day of being Dad, banker and taco purveyor. Thanks to Toney and Tacos 4 Life, thousands of children in impoverished countries have access to nutritionally balanced meals—and our community has access to a unique variety of delicious tacos.
About the Author: Lisa Thompson is a mother of three boys and is married to Brad, a firefighter with the Texarkana Texas Fire Department. She is the Economic Developer for the City of Texarkana, TX and teaches as an adjunct at University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana.