Taco Bell building more 'selfie-friendly' units

Plans are proceeding for a new Taco Bell restaurant on Harper Avenue, near Little Mack Avenue, to be one of the first in the country with a new design that encourages “selfies” and has an open kitchen plan.

City Council was asked to approve a drive-thru and a site plan for the building June 15.

City Planner Liz Koto said that there would be three drive approaches, but two would be marked as exit only. The drive-thru would be placed on the Little Mack side of the property and would have a “smart speaker,” which would be able to tell when traffic is louder and increase or decrease its volume accordingly.

The restaurant is planned to be open from 7 a.m.-3 a.m. on weekdays and from 7 a.m.-4 a.m. on the weekends, and would also have a small outdoor patio with about a dozen seats.

The motion approving a drive-thru passed unanimously.

“We’re in a race with a store outside Seattle, Washington, to be No. 2 ... in the country” with the new concept, said Construction Manager Jim McNally.

He explained that the restaurant would have an open kitchen concept where customers can see their order being prepared. There would be even more windows along the drive-thru where those customers can have the same experience.

The inside would look different than what customers expect from Taco Bell right now, too, he said, with new flooring, an open ceiling space and new LED lighting. There would also be a map of Michigan painted on the side of the building with a “You are here” arrow pointing to St. Clair Shores.

“The idea is for people to stand in front of it, take their selfies, see how many you can get,” McNally said.

The first of this new concept was built in Indiana.

McNally said there would be lots of new building materials on the restaurant, including a cementitious board that looks like wood and a similar stamped board that resembles painted brick. He said they were trying to be environmentally friendly with the design, which would allow in enough light to leave dining room lights off at times.

But the different exterior materials drew criticism from Councilman Chris Vitale, who said that the Harper overlay specifies unpainted brick, not painted brick, and that he wondered why they would use a newer, untested material instead of brick on the building.

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