Taco Bell on Thursday unveiled its newest store design promising to be the speediest unit yet.
Dubbed the Taco Bell Defy — because it will “defy norms and define the future” — the new design set to break ground in Brooklyn Park, Minn., later this month will be a 3,000-square-foot, two-story restaurant with four drive-thru lanes. Three of those lanes will be dedicated to mobile or delivery order pickups, the company said.
Developed in partnership with 35-year franchise operator Border Foods, the new Defy location was designed by Minneapolis-based Vertical Works Inc. It will be the franchisee’s 230th Taco Bell and 82nd new restaurant build, though it’s not scheduled to open until summer 2022.
Though the Defy design will be among the smallest in terms of footprint, the restaurant is expected to serve more customers, reimagining a frictionless drive-thru experience, the company said.
Digital check-in screens will allow mobile-order customers to scan their order via a QR code, then pull forward where their food will be delivered by a contactless proprietary lift system. Two-way audio and video will allow customers to stay in touch with team members in real time.
The Irvine, Calif.-based chain has long been diversifying its flexible formats, but the company is prioritizing digital elements as it reaches the goal of 10,000 units this decade.
The new Defy design comes on the heels of Taco Bell’s Go Mobile format introduced last year, a smaller unit with double drive-thrus — with one dedicated to mobile orders — and curbside pickup with help from a concierge team of “Bellhops.” To date, the chain has 13 Go Mobile locations built and another 85 in the pipeline, with the Defy as the latest in that format category.
Before that came the more socially oriented Taco Bell Cantina locations, with open kitchens and often serving alcohol.
“In 2015, we created the Taco Bell Cantina concept with an open kitchen environment in urban markets. In 2020, we introduced the Go Mobile concept much earlier than anticipated with the help of quick collaboration with franchisees just like Border Foods,” said Mike Grams, Taco Bell’s vice president and global chief operating officer, in a statement. “Partnering with our franchisees to test new concepts is a huge unlock of learning for us. What we learn from the test of this new Defy concept may help shape future Taco Bell restaurants.”
Aaron Engler, president of Border Foods, added in a statement that the new design will improve a major aspect of using the drive-thru: speed.
“We’re partnering with Taco Bell and the best and brightest in technology and design to create what will very likely be the future of quick-service restaurants,” Engler said.
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