Taco Bell is ditching fiesta-themed orange plastic and purple neon in favor of reclaimed wood and bare light bulbs. The Yum subsidiary announced an upscale redesign that will be deployed at the 2,000 new restaurants that are planned by 2022.
Four designs were unveiled Tuesday that focus on open kitchen plans and communal tables, features found at upscale modern fast casual restaurants, a category that Taco Bell would very much like to climb into and away from the declining fast-food sector.
There is Heritage, inspired by the culinary roots of Mexican-inspired food, with warm white walls, tile and heavy timber; Modern Explorer, a rustic modern style that is a variation on the Cantina concept, with nods to farms; California Sol, with al fresco dining and a beachy feel, including fire pits; and Urban Edge, an eclectic mix of international and street style.
The four designs will debut this summer in Orange County, Calif., at existing restaurants that are to be remodeled, with a broader roll-out planned in 2016, including plans to expand the Taco Bell cantina concept, which includes alcoholic beverages, that has been opened in San Francisco and Chicago.
Other markets under consideration includeAtlanta, New York, Boston and Ohio, and smaller cities with revitalizing downtown areas, including Berkeley, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Fayetteville, Ark.
“All four restaurant designs each have a different contextual personality, (but) they all share a commonality in expressing Taco Bell’s brand like never before,” Marisa Thalberg, chief marketing officer at Taco Bell, said in a news release. “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.”
Another change: Restaurants won’t all look exactly the same.
“It’s no longer one size fits all,” said Deborah Brand, Taco Bell’s vice president of development and design. “Consumers are looking for localized, customized and personalized experiences that reflect the diversity of their communities; the flexibility in bringing these four designs to life gives us just that.”
Taco Bell also wants to become greener, with LED lights and locally sourced reclaimed wood, solar panel canopies over drive-throughs, and reclaimed water for irrigation.
In 2015, Taco Bell opened more than 275 restaurants, remodeled about 600 more, and is currently on pace to exceed both numbers in 2016, according to the news release. Of the 2,000 restaurants planned to be built by 2022, 200 will be in urban areas. It wasn’t clear how many will be cantinas.