Taco Bell is pursuing a different sort of localization with the unveiling today of four restaurant designs, each intended to reflect a branch’s setting.
Included is a possible new look for urban sites, which will account for about a tenth of the chain’s new units going forward, management said. Officials said the brand is “underrepresented” in inner-city locations, which will be viewed as potential locations for the chain’s Taco Bell Cantina variation.
The Cantina format features an open kitchen, alcoholic beverages, shareable items and plated meals. In locations where those riffs might be out of sync with the surroundings, the chain would build restaurants sporting what it calls an Urban Edge design, described as “an eclectic mix of international and street style.”
1. Urban Edge
Targeted locations for an Urban Edge-designed restaurant or a Taco Bell Cantina include Atlanta; New York City; Boston; Austin, Texas; Berkeley, Calif.; and Fayetteville, N.C.
Other designs will be used for locations varying from rural locations to warm-weather spots where outdoor dining is viable. Below are the other three formats.
2. Modern Explorer
Taco Bell describes the look as “rustic modern,” suitable for a rural or suburban setting. The format will provide a clearer view of the meals being made, and will incorporate touches that call to mind the agricultural sources of the food.
3. California Sol
Intended for warm areas like the brand’s home turf of Southern California, the format provides a “laid-back, beach-y feel,” according to Taco Bell. A key feature will be ample outdoor dining space.
Most reminiscent of the chain’s original design, the look features exposed timbers, white walls, tiles and other touches suggesting a Mexican setting. Taco Bell did not specify what sort of location would be ideal for the Modern Explorer look, suggesting that it amounts to the default design for sites where the other three designs aren’t suitable.
“While all four restaurant designs each have a different contextual personality, they all share a commonality in expressing Taco Bell’s brand like never before,” said Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s CMO. “From the open kitchen that showcases our freshly prepared foods to the community tables designed for friends to hang out, each of these formats fosters a modern, unique experience.”
The designs also share a commitment to energy conservation, according to Taco Bell. In suitable locations, the drive-thru will be roofed with solar panels.
The chain said the four new designs will be tested in the franchisor’s home base of Orange County, Calif., before becoming nationwide options. The looks will be used both for newly constructed restaurants and renovations.
Taco Bell noted that the chain opened 275 restaurants and renovated 600 stores in 2015. It has a goal of opening 2,000 restaurants by 2022.