Irvine, Calif. — On April 14, 2021, Taco Bell® opened a new Cantina in the heart of Times Square. Built with the energy and on-the-go vibrance of the city in mind, the newest restaurant embraces technology in a whole new way to serve the demands of New Yorkers.
Features of the new space include:
- Digital-only ordering with prominent menu kiosks inside the restaurant. The restaurant’s 10 kiosks replace traditional analog menu boards.
- Order ahead pickup cubbies, located in a separate double-door entrance, allow customers to skip the traditional restaurant experience entirely and head directly to the pickup area.
- The Times Square Cantina joins nearly 60 Taco Bell restaurants and 20+ Cantinas already operating across New York’s boroughs and 200+ in the larger New York City metropolitan area. The brand plans to build 25 new restaurants in the region this year, which accounts for roughly 10% of Taco Bell’s overall development mix.
- The newest Taco Bell restaurant is housed within one of Times Square’s oldest and most historic buildings. Built between 1926-1927, the iconic Paramount Building originally served as headquarters and cinematic theater for the major motion picture company. To honor the history of the building, Taco Bell’s architects incorporated the original golden entrance, now used as the dedicated side entrance for mobile pickup orders.
- The beloved elements of the typical Cantina with an open-kitchen and alcoholic drinks paired with the digital design elements of the Times Square Cantina simplify and modernize the consumer experience.
Taco Bell is on track to have 10,000 restaurants open globally this decade, leveraging a multitude of design formats to enhance and redefine both the customer and team member QSR experience in a constantly shifting world.
In collaboration with its franchisees, Taco Bell has continued to evolve its restaurants on an ongoing basis. Back in 2015, the brand saw that customers were eager for urban locations without drive-thrus; so, it developed Cantinas. In navigating COVID-19, Taco Bell again adapted with improvements to digital and drive-thru offerings that prioritized safety and efficiency. Now, new builds and remodels will take modernization to new levels from coast to coast.
“Prioritizing our development plans continues to be a major focus for 2021, especially as we look towards building our next 1,000 restaurants,” says Mike Grams, Taco Bell’s president and global COO. “Our restaurant portfolio continues to rapidly evolve, striking a crucial balance between being technology-forward and social-oriented. Even amid the challenging pandemic, we are continuing to grow due in large part to the strength in our franchise partnerships as well as the flexible formats we offer.”
With social experiences drastically changing over the past year, Taco Bell has been quick to adapt based on both current and anticipated dining behaviors. Earlier this year, Taco Bell and franchisee Diversified Restaurant Group collaborated to open the first ever drive-thru Cantina in Danville, Calif. (pictured at left), merging proven Cantina success with the prioritization of drive-thru service during the pandemic. The restaurant is the first of its kind with features such as an outdoor firepit and game area, as well as full bar offerings for dine-in guests once it’s safe to do so.
While the brand will continue building destination restaurants, it will simultaneously prioritize digital elements to maximize efficiency for on-the-go customers. The aforementioned opening in the heart of Manhattan is kiosk-focused for a completely digital yet in-person experience. Taco Bell will also continue rolling out its Go Mobile concept that began testing last year, which features minimalistic physical spaces and dual drive-thru lanes. This national concept rollout has excited franchisees, especially Tina Reagan. As president and COO of franchise K-Mac Enterprises, Reagan is a leader in remodeling older Taco Bell restaurants, and has recently been focusing on Go Mobile (pictured below).
“While new development is important, so is remodeling our existing restaurants to fit the needs of each trade area’s customers and surrounding community,” says Reagan. “We are always looking to evolve to meet our guests needs, and transforming to be more digital-forward is no exception. In the last year, we’ve remodeled three restaurants into our Go Mobile format, and plan to both remodel and build over 30 additional Go Mobile restaurants by year end.”
The Go Mobile concept’s concierge service of team members, known as “bellhops,” is intended to improve drive-thru speeds even further with tablet ordering and curbside pickup. Expect to see up to 1,000 bellhops across the U.S. by the summer.
Lee Engler, CEO of Border Foods, is another Taco Bell franchisee pushing the boundaries of what future restaurants will look and feel like. In addition to working with the brand, Engler and his team invited experts outside of the QSR industry to help collaborate on an industry-defying restaurant, set to be revealed in the coming months.
“As great as the drive-thru is, a fundamental flaw is bottleneck at the windows,” says Engler. “Our team has set out to creatively solve for that like no one else has done before, and we’re thrilled by positive early responses to our one-of-a-kind concept coming to Brooklyn Park, Minn.”
With leading-edge offerings, Taco Bell’s new locations will join the ranks of other iconic Taco Bells, from the wedding chapel in Las Vegas to the beachside spot in Pacifica. Taco Bell’s 2021 development growth is anticipated to outpace that of 2020.
For more information, visit www.TacoBell.com/news.
SOURCE: Taco Bell Corp.