Craton, Calif. — Taco Bell’s Las Vegas flagship cantina, located in the heart of The Strip, is a world apart from the traditional, tiny Taco Bell drive-through. The cantina is a two-story restaurant with a large central atrium that looks more like a hot dance club than a fast food outlet, and is pumped full of music to match.
Upstairs is the wedding chapel, a more brightly lit dining room with flat screens on the side walls, and an enormous backlit graphic at the far end of the room with the company’s logo portrayed as wedding bells. The decorative ceiling panels, made by Ceilume, are relatively low and therefore very prominent; a field of elegant white coffers that add notes of formality and elegance, like icing on a wedding cake. The room is available for wedding parties of up to 15 guests, and comes with a sauce-packet bouquet for the walk down the aisle and a 12-pack of tacos.
The Las Vegas cantina is one of an emerging group of Taco Bell locations that is transforming the customer experience of the international chain. “Taco Bell is removing the ‘one size fits all’ development model of quick-service restaurants,” the company explains, “and building unique restaurants with unique features to better serve the many communities in which we operate.”
The new styles, called Urban Inline restaurants and Cantinas (the only difference is that Cantinas serve alcohol), have larger and more architecturally appealing interiors, and no drive through windows. According to Christina Hernandez, a Taco Bell in-house brand architect, these new locations, “focus on bringing customers out of the drive through and inside the restaurant.” They not only have greater seating space than many old Taco Bells, but offer an environment with style and visual interest. They feature “localized designs and artwork, an open kitchen, digital menu boards, and a “Shareable Menu” with unique menu items not found at your regular Taco Bell.”
Taco Bell has debuted four new design concepts. These new restaurant styles are being rolled out across the country, but each was initially launched in Southern California. One architectural enhancement that unifies the four designs are ceilings made of Ceilume thermoformed panels.
The Heritage concept store features warm white walls and a coffered ceiling made with latte- and black-colored Stratford style Ceilume panels. The concept, which also includes timber beams in some stores, takes it inspiration from the Spanish Mission architectural motifs used by earlier generations of the chain’s restaurants.
The Modern Explorer theme also uses the latte- and black-colored panels. The concept is inspired by the farm-to-table movement and features an open kitchen and wood-grained furniture.
California Sol celebrates the active outdoor California lifestyle. They use the same style of Ceilume panels, but in bright white that expresses daylight and blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor.
In the Urban Edge design, black and latte versions of the same ceiling panels are used to create an image that Taco Bell says “is reflective of international high street style and is inspired by timeless design married with cutting edge urban sensibility.”
The thermoformed, rigid vinyl ceiling panels, utilized so extensively by Taco Bell in its new designs, not only complement and contribute to the architectural statement, but are impervious to water, stain resistant, and washable, making them compliant with code requirements for use over food handling areas. Panels are durable, recyclable, and Greenguard Gold certified for indoor air quality, factors that help the firm meet the environmental goals of parent company, YUM! Brands. As Taco Bell continues to roll out these new designs, expect to see more interesting ceilings appearing across the U.S.
Ceilume is the leading manufacturer of thermoformed ceiling and wall tiles and panels. The company’s roots go back to when “Mid-Century was Modern” and the pioneers of modular ceilings. The family-owned business is located in California’s wine country and occupies a historic apple-packing warehouse. For more information, see www.ceilume.com/pro.