When it came time to update its current prototype, Taco Bell incorporated feedback from its franchisees, some of whom had difficulty making Taco Bell’s standard design fit into their location due to obstacles such as site restrictions and certain design criteria from different communities. “We’d start off with one look, and it’d take on a life of its own,” says Deborah Brand, Taco Bell’s VP of development and design. “So we’d thought it’d be more helpful if we produced a suite of options we thought were more brand-appropriate, instead of franchisees having to reinvent the wheel every time.”

In October, Taco Bell launched four new design packages, all different in look but still incorporating key elements of Taco Bell’s brand, along with some common features such as communal tables. Franchisees will have the freedom to choose which design to use for each location—for example, there isn’t a design solely for inline units, and the Urban Edge look doesn’t necessarily have to go in an urban area. They’ll also be able to incorporate certain features from the different design packages, such as Modern Explorer’s open kitchen, which Brand says has been used for its Cantina prototype, the company’s urban model that serves adult beverages.

Since Taco Bell began testing the four prototypes in locations near its Orange County, Calif., headquarters, it has launched two restaurants with the redesigns—a Modern Explorer site in Indiana and a Heritage prototype in Michigan—and aims to have all designs available to franchisees by the end of the year. Brand says Taco Bell is still negotiating with vendors on costs, but it plans to keep the price of these designs on par with current prototypes. Additionally, Brand says the chain is also exploring adding more designs, including prototypes for small footprints such as a drive-thru-only unit with a patio or a walk-up site in an urban location. 

01 The Heritage

  • Modernized version of the original Mission-style Taco Bell
  • White walls, Mexican-style tiles and dark woods

02 California Sol

  • Inspired by Taco Bell’s birthplace, California
  • Blue-green wall tile, colorful artwork and outdoor patio

03 Urban Edge

  • Inspired by international street style
  • Dark flooring, industrial-style light fixtures and pops of bright orange and red tones

04 Modern Explorer

  • Designed to promote Taco Bell’s commitment to using fresh ingredients
  • Open kitchen, light woods