ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The past 13 months have presented the restaurant industry with unprecedented challenges, forcing it to reconsider changes to operations, including digital technologies, supply chain logistics and foodservice operations, reports Pymnts.com. And many quick-service restaurants (QSRs) have been redesigning their stores, focusing on drive-thru- and digital-ordering-centric designs.
Now, Taco Bell has unveiled its latest restaurant design strategy, which looks to the future of dining. Unlike the “3 Ds” of McDonald’s redesign—Digital, Delivery and Drive-Thru—Taco Bell’s “3 Ds” acknowledge consumers’ pent-up demand for on-premises dining following the mass isolation of the past year. A “Dine-ins, Drive-Thrus and Digital” approach will guide the chain going forward, as the company looks to open 10,000 locations over the course of the 2020s.
“[There] are two critical elements that will work together harmoniously across our Taco Bell brand,” said Mike Grams, president and global COO. “It’s the idea of merging technology and mobile convenience with the human connection we all crave, especially when many of our fans are digitally native to begin with. By staying flexible in our restaurant formats and features, we’ll be able to continue creating unique environments and experiences for any customer.”
As part of Taco Bell’s plan, some restaurants will serve as on-premises destinations, such as one new location that features a game zone, a full-service bar and an outdoor firepit. To tailor each location to the needs of the neighborhood, the company looks to its franchisees to “leverage their local market insights and trade areas of expertise” and determine which restaurant design would work best.
Some, such as last year’s Go Mobile locations, will focus on digital integrations and off-premises options. As NACS Daily reported last year, Taco Bell Go Mobile locations are smaller sites (1,325 square feet compared to the regular 2,500-square-foot outlets) that allow guests to order ahead through the brand’s mobile app and make a frictionless payment.
As Grams put it, “We’re working closely with our franchisees to think leaps ahead of others in order to offer various restaurant formats that facilitate the desired dining experience for every individual. There are many factors that come into play when planning for each and every new build and remodel.”
Typically, restaurant locations in Times Square are bigger and brighter than those in other parts of the country. Taco Bell’s new location there, which is set to open later this spring, will be a kiosk-centric store that offers a “completely digital yet in-person experience,” the company said in a news release.
As the chain continues to experiment with less-traditional store designs, Grams also alluded to “another great new concept” developed “in partnership with our franchisee Border Foods,” a company that operates 200 locations with more than 5,000 employees.
“In the coming months, you’ll see how they’re creatively solving drive-thru bottleneck issues with a new restaurant in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.” Grams said. “Right now, everyone in our industry is talking about the drive-thru … At Taco Bell … the drive-thru experience has long been one of our strengths. We even adapted our operations during COVID-19 in such ways that allowed us to increase our drive-thru speed to become one of the fastest in the industry.”
Across the industry, major QSR chains have been turning to technological innovations to streamline operations. In addition, Taco Bell looks to create immersive experiences that go beyond providing efficiency and convenience.
“We’re looking more holistically to a multitude of different concepts, pushing boundaries and tapping into the power of franchisees’ entrepreneurial spirits to create restaurants that are truly special,” said Grams. “We’re … seeing promising signs for a future where we can again gather to eat with friends and family. I think that’s something we can all look forward to.”
QSRs like Taco Bell and McDonald’s are not the only ones addressing the speed factor of convenience with solutions such as drive-thrus. Wawa opened its first drive-thru last December and in January opened its first drive-thru only location in Morrisville, Pa.