The fast-casual U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom concept launched by Taco Bell Corp. last year will close Thursday.
Company officials said the Huntington Beach, Calif., restaurant suffered from lower-than-expected foot traffic and challenges in obtaining an alcohol permit.
The concept was open for about a year, but U.S. Taco Co. was never able to obtain a permanent alcohol permit. The beach community cracked down on alcohol use at restaurants and bars on the city’s Strand after an unruly crowd caused a melee during the 2013 U.S. Open of Surfing, months before U.S. Taco Co. was scheduled to open.
However, Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol said the company may try the concept again elsewhere.
“U.S. Taco Co. remains a fantastic concept, and was very successful as a place to experiment and learn,” Niccol said. “From the food to the design, and the service experience and open kitchen layout, we’re incorporating that thinking into other future concepts.”
Meanwhile, the chain is focusing on growing the new, urban Taco Bell Cantina concept, which will also serve alcohol. The first Cantina unit is scheduled to officially open on Sept. 22, in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. It had a soft opening Tuesday. A second unit is scheduled to open later this month in San Francisco.
U.S. Taco Co. offered a simple lineup of 10 premium tacos based on American regional flavors, along with thick-cut fries and shakes.
Offerings included dishes like the “Winner Winner,” with Southern-style fried chicken breast with “SOB,” or South of the Border gravy, roasted corn pico de gallo with fresh jalapenos and fresh cilantro in a flour tortilla. A “One Percenter” featured fresh lobster in garlic butter with red cabbage slaw and pico de gallo on crispy fry bread.
A key selling point, however, was the planned offer of craft beers and milkshakes spiked with alcohol, but the beverage menu at the Huntington Beach unit was limited by the lack of alcohol permits.
Developed by an in-house team of “intrapreneurs,” flexible teams created to field concepts at a more rapid pace, U.S. Taco Co. was designed to appeal to higher-income foodies who might never set foot in a Taco Bell.
Taco Bell parent Yum Brands Inc. has also experimented with other attempts at fast-casual concepts, including the Vietnamese-inspired Banh Shop in Dallas; the KFC Eleven brand, which the company closed in April; and Super Chix, which was spun off in August.