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Taco Bell orchestrates Big Ben takeover to celebrate London opening

Taco Bell orchestrates Big Ben takeover to celebrate London opening

Chain’s iconic bell was digitized to recreate the famed clock’s chimes

Blimey! Chalupas are landing in London.

Taco Bell is scheduled to open its first restaurant in London later this week. To celebrate the inaugural outlet, the California quick-service brand had a little fun with Londoners on Monday.

With Big Ben under construction, the Irvine, Calif.-based chain brought the clock tower’s famed chimes back to life for one day – but with a Taco Bell twist.

As commuters passed by the famed landmark, they heard Taco Bell’s signature bong digitized to recreate the Westminster chimes. The chimes started at 8 a.m. local London time, and continued ringing every hour throughout the day until 8 p.m.

Taco Bell worked with an audio engineer to compose the chimes, which were blasted through speakers strategically placed throughout the tourist area surrounding Big Ben. They used speakers that project sound over a distance making it difficult for passersby to figure out the source of the sound.

“We took an urban camouflage approach, and mounted the speakers on unbranded rickshaws which travelled around the vicinity of Westminster Bridge and Big Ben, sharing the chimes for all to hear,” the company said.

This isn’t the first bell-related prank by the fast-food chain. In 1996, Taco Bell caused an uproar in the City of Brotherly Love when the brand advertised it had bought the Liberty Bell and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” The chain made the announcement in major newspaper ads on April 1.  

Philadelphians unaware of the April Fools Day hoax were outraged that a national treasure, the Liberty Bell, had been hijacked by a fast food chain.

Taco Bell’s first London restaurant is scheduled to open Nov. 23, in the Hammersmith district, followed by a second restaurant on Nov. 30 in the Holborn district. 

A south London restaurant in Croydon is scheduled to debut in December, while another in southwest London’s Fulham district is due to open in early 2019. All four are owned and operated by the London-based franchise operator T Bello Group.

Similar to the Cantina Taco Bell format in the U.S., the London restaurants have no drive-throughs but feature open kitchens, artwork from local artists, and modern amenities such as free Wi-Fi and outlets for charging mobile devices.

Along with the signature Taco Bell menu, the restaurants also serve pints of beer and Twisted Freezes. The latter are slushy drinks infused with distilled spirits. Choices include tequila or rum.

The Hammersmith store sports a device that fills the plastic pint cup with beer from the bottom before being sealed with a magnet. It is the same beer innovation found at Taco Bell’s flagship Cantina store in Las Vegas.

The restaurant also plans to have a Taco Tuesday program featuring a taco and a Sol beer for 2 British pounds, or about $2.57.

Taco Bell currently has 28 other restaurants in the United Kingdom.

Globally, the chain has 440 Taco Bells in 27 countries outside of the U.S. The chain, a division of Yum Brands, plans to add 1,000 units abroad over the next four years.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven

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