Taco Bell Invading The Urban Border

Popular millennial-focused chain plans to open up to 200 locations of a new urban-focused concept serving craft beer and fresh, upscale food.

Taco Bell plans to open its new Taco Bell Cantina concept in urban locations throughout the US. These Taco Bell Cantina stores will be located in geographic areas that are typically underrepresented for the brand and reflect a more modern, urban mood.

The company’s ‘Urban Edge’ stores will feature ‘cutting-edge elements of the urban environment’ such as modern light fixtures, plush furniture, open kitchens, community tables, exposed brick and localized artwork. The Cantina menus will be more upscale than typical Taco Bell fare and feature fresh ingredients, open plating and customizable and shareable entrees. In many locations, diners will also be able to purchase craft beer, sangria and boozy twisted Freezes.

Image Credit: Taco Bell

“From the open kitchen that showcases our freshly prepared foods to the community tables designed for friends to hang out, these (Cantina) formats foster a modern, unique experience,’ states Marisa Thalberg, Chief Marketing Officer at Taco Bell Corp. While design elements in individual Cantinas will share similar qualities, each store will be customized to fit within the vibrant communities in which they operate. “It’s no longer one size fits all,” states Deborah Brand, VP of Development and Design at Taco Bell Corp. “Consumers are looking for a localized, customized and personalized experience that reflect the diversity of their communities.”

Image Credit: Taco Bell

The chain opened the first Cantina concepts in San Francisco and Chicago in 2015, and expanded to other major metropolitan markets in 2016. As a company intent on being known as ‘America’s favorite millennial brand’, Taco Bell Corp also tested the concept in college-focused cities with revitalizing downtown areas like Berkeley, Austin and Fayetteville. These initial forays were well-received, leading the company to advance plans to add up to 200 of these stores by 2022. Overall, the company plans to reach $15 billion in sales by 2022, while adding 100,000 new jobs in the U.S. “Building new restaurants is a key component to the overall growth and evolution of Taco Bell,” said Brian Niccol, Chief Executive Officer at Taco Bell Corp. “Great design, great food and great economics are at the heart of our growth.”

Taco Bell Cantinas feature a variety of open plate entrees packed with at least 20 grams of protein that weigh in at 500 or fewer calories. The chain is the first quick service restaurant with a menu certified by the American Vegetarian Association (AVA). Image Credit: Taco Bell

For a brand that has traditionally been known for serving cheap food on the go and heavily relying on drive-thru service, the Cantina concepts are one part of a wide-ranging evolution of the company’s overall look, feel and attitude. Along with the roll out of the Cantina storefronts, Taco Bell also revealed its first logo refresh in over 20 years. The new logo mirrors the new restaurant strategy: one size doesn’t fit all. In this modern take, color makes a splash and allows customization through patterns and textures, giving usage flexibility while maintaining its iconic framework.

Cover Image: First Street Development