As part of a plan to have 1,000 international stores by 2022, Taco Bell has signed deals to add 600 restaurants in India and more than 100 units in Australia and New Zealand.
The Irvine, Calif.-based fast-food chain is super charging its growth in India under a new master franchise agreement with Burman Hospitality Private Limited. Burman will nearly double Taco Bell’s presence in the subcontinent by the end of the year, where it will go from 35 to more than 60 units, the chain announced Thursday.
Burman, or BHPL, will also buy two company stores that opened in 2010, the year Taco Bell entered India. Most of the 600 restaurants will be inline stores, or units without drive-thrus, which is common in international markets, said Liz Williams, president of Taco Bell International. They will be built over the next 10 years.
Some of the restaurants will also offer table service and serve alcohol. Williams said Taco Bell is leveraging the brand’s popularity among consumers who are gravitating towards the chain’s signature and innovative vegetarian options created exclusively for the market.
“Taco Bell really is perfect for the Indian market because our menu has so much flexibility to go veg or non-veg,” Williams said during a phone interview with Nation’s Restaurant News.
Local favorites on the menu include a chicken tikka masala taco or burrito, a paneer taco and the potaco. The latter is a hash brown-style taco shell that became a worldwide social media sensation last year when it debuted on the menu.
Upon completion of the 600 restaurants, India will be Taco Bell’s largest market outside of the U.S. BHPL will also become one of Taco Bell’s largest franchisees globally by restaurant count.
So which international market is the second hottest growth market for the brand?
“That is a bit of a tossup,” Williams said.
Currently, the brand is ramping up growth in Spain, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. Spain, which currently has 50 units, will add anywhere from 12 to 15 restaurants by the end of the year. Brazil, which has 30 units, is adding a handful of locations.
New Zealand and Australia plan to add more than 100 units over the next five years. Since opening in Brisbane in 2017, fans Down Under have shown a real affinity towards the brand, Williams said.
Australia has four stores. That will double by the end of the year when new units debut in Sydney and Melbourne, Williams said. Within a year, Taco Bell will also open its first restaurant in New Zealand.
“We have gotten one of the warmest receptions for Taco Bell in the Australian market,” Williams said. “The sales volumes in Australia have been some of the highest that we've seen anywhere in the world.”
When Taco Bell opens an international store, much research goes into everything from the menu to the décor, Williams said.
The culinary team often spends a year preparing the menu, which consists of the core U.S. menu, along with a few local exclusives. Oftentimes, certain flavor profiles must be tweaked to meet the palates of locals. For example, when Taco Bell made its debut in Thailand earlier this year, the company had to come up with spicier packet sauces.
“We worked closely with our culinary team to really dial up the spice level,” Williams said.
Many international locations also resemble the modern look of Taco Bell’s domestic Cantina concept, flashy restaurants without drive-thrus and built in urban communities with lots of foot traffic.
However, Williams said the international restaurants are not called Cantinas.
“Our [global] restaurants are much more youthful, modern, and upscale in atmosphere,” Williams said. “They've got a mix of local artwork, and music in some markets. Taco Bell outside the U.S. is really in a category that goes beyond QSR.”
Taco Bell currently has more than 500 restaurants in nearly 30 markets outside of the U.S. In the U.S., the company has about 7,000 restaurants. By 2022, Taco Bell plans to become a $15 billion global company with 9,000 restaurants around the world.
Update May 23, 2019: This story has been updated to add the that the planned India expansion is over the next decade.
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