Taco Bell

Taco Bell
Industry Fast food restaurant
Founded March 21, 1962 (1962-03-21)
Downey, California
Headquarters 1 Glen Bell Way,
Irvine, California
Number of locations
6,407 restaurants[1]
Area served
Mainly United States and Canada
Key people
Glen Bell, Founder
Brian Niccol, CEO[2]
Products Tacos, burritos, and other Tex-Mex cuisine-related fast food
Revenue Increase$1.988 billion (2015)[1]
Number of employees
Parent Yum! Brands
Website www.tacobell.com

Taco Bell is an American chain of fast-food restaurants based in Irvine, California. A subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., they serve a variety of Tex-Mex foods, including tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, other specialty items, and a variety of "value menu" items. Taco Bell serves more than 2 billion customers each year in 6,407 restaurants, more than 80 percent of which are owned and operated by independent franchisees and licensees.


Founding and growth

Taco Bell was founded by Glen Bell, who first opened a hot dog stand called Bell's Drive-In in San Bernardino, California[3] in 1946 when he was 23 years old. In 1950, he opened Bell's Hamburgers and Hot Dogs in San Bernardino's West Side barrio. According to Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, Bell watched long lines of customers at a Mexican restaurant called the Mitla Cafe, located across the street, which attracted a dedicated customer base for its hard-shelled tacos.[4][5] Bell began eating there regularly, attempting to reverse-engineer the recipe, and eventually won the confidence of the proprietors such that they allowed him to see how the tacos and other foods were prepared.[4][5] In late 1951 or early 1952, he took what he had learned and opened a new stand, this time selling tacos under the name of Taco-Tia.[4][5]

Over the next few years Bell owned and operated a number of restaurants in southern California including four called El Taco. Bell sold the El Tacos to his partner and built the first Taco Bell in Downey in 1962. On the night of Nov. 19, 2015 the original Taco Bell building in Downey was moved to the Taco Bell Corporate Headquarters in Irvine, CA.[6] In 1962, he sold Taco-Tia. Kermit Becky, a former Los Angeles police officer, bought the first Taco Bell franchise from Glen Bell in 1964,[3] and located it in Torrance. The company grew rapidly, and by 1967, the 100th restaurant opened at 400 South Brookhurst in Anaheim. In 1968, its first franchise location east of the Mississippi River opened in Springfield, Ohio.[7] In 1970, Taco Bell went public with 325 restaurants. In 1978, PepsiCo purchased Taco Bell from Glen Bell.[3]

Several locations in the Midwestern United States were converted from Zantigo, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Mexican chain which PepsiCo acquired in 1986.[8]


A co-branded KFC-Taco Bell in Oscoda, Michigan

In 1991, Taco Bell opened the first Taco Bell Express in San Francisco. This concept is a reduced-size restaurant with a limited menu (primarily items priced under $1), meant to emphasize volume.[9] Taco Bell Express locations operate primarily inside convenience stores, truck stops, shopping malls, and airports.

Taco Bell began co-branding with KFC in 1995, when the first such co-brand opened in Clayton, North Carolina.[10] The chain has since co-branded with Pizza Hut[11] and Long John Silver's as well.

In 1997, PepsiCo experimented with a new "fresh grill" concept, opening at least one Border Bell restaurant in Mountain View, California on El Camino Real (SR 82). In addition to a subset of the regular Taco Bell menu, Border Bell offered Mexican-inspired items like those available from Chevys Fresh Mex restaurants (then owned by PepsiCo), such as Chevys signature sweet corn tamalito pudding and a fresh salsa bar.[12] Close to the time that PepsiCo spun off its restaurant business in 1997, the Border Bell in Mountain View was closed and converted to a Taco Bell restaurant, which was still open in 2012.

Taco Bell created U.S. Taco Co. in 2014. The menu will consist of tacos with American fillings, and will not sell food sold in Taco Bell restaurants such as burritos. It was launched in Huntington Beach, California in August 2014.[13]

In March 2016, Taco Bell introduced private beta testing of an artificial intelligence bot on the messaging platform Slack (software) designed to be able to take orders of select menu items from their local taco bell location and have the orders delivered. Taco bell plans to have a wider roll out of this functionality in the coming months.

GMO recall

Main article: Starlink corn recall

In September 2000, up to $50 million worth of Taco Bell-branded shells were recalled from supermarkets. The shells contained genetically modified corn that was not approved for human consumption. It was the first-ever recall of genetically modified food (GMO). Corn was not segregated at grain elevators and the miller in Texas did not order that type.[14]

In 2001 Tricon Global Restaurants, 20% owners of Taco Bell at the time, announced a $60 million settlement with the suppliers. They stated that it would go to Taco Bell franchisees and TGR would not take any of it.[15]

Dispute with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

In March 2005, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) won a landmark victory in its national boycott of Taco Bell for human rights. Taco Bell agreed to meet all the coalition's demands to improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers in its supply chain.[16]

After four years of a tenacious and growing boycott, Taco Bell and Yum! Brands agreed to make an agreement called the CIW-Yum agreement with representatives of CIW at Yum! Brands headquarters.[17] The CIW-Yum agreement set several precedents, establishing:


Taco Bell's current headquarters in Irvine, California next to the Irvine Spectrum Center
Taco Bell's former headquarters in Irvine, California
Taco Bell's new store design as of 2013

In March 2001, Taco Bell announced a promotion to coincide with the re-entry of the Mir space station. They towed a large target out into the Pacific Ocean, announcing that if the target was hit by a falling piece of Mir, every person in the United States would be entitled to a free Taco Bell taco. The company bought a sizable insurance policy for this gamble.[19] No piece of the station struck the target.

In 2004, a local Taco Bell franchisee bought the naming rights to the Boise State Pavilion in Boise, Idaho and renamed the stadium Taco Bell Arena.[20] Also, in 2004, Mountain Dew offered Taco Bell stores the exclusive right to carry Mountain Dew Baja Blast, a tropical-lime-flavored variety of the popular soft drink chemically formulated to taste good with their food.[21]

In 2007, Taco Bell offered the "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" promotion—if any player from either team stole a base in the 2007 World Series the company would give away free tacos to everyone in the United States in a campaign similar to the Mir promotion, albeit with a much higher likelihood of being realized.[22] After Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox stole a base in Game 2, the company paid out this promotion on October 30, 2007. This promotion was used again in the 2008 World Series, when Jason Bartlett of the Tampa Bay Rays stole a base during Game 1 at Tropicana Field, which was paid out on October 28, 2008.[23] The offer was again valid for the 2012 World Series. A similar offer was made during the 2015 World Series, if a player stole a base, the company would give away free A.M Crunchwraps.[24] This promotion was also used during the 2016 NBA Finals under the slightly modified "Steal A Game, Steal A Taco" name after the Golden State Warriors "stole" a win during Game 4 of the NBA Finals.[25] The promotion is being offered again for the 2016 World Series.

Taco Bell sponsors a promotion at home games for both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Cleveland Cavaliers in which everyone in attendance receives a coupon for a free Chalupa if the home team scores 100 points or more.[26][27]

In 2009, Taco Bell introduced a music video style commercial entitled, "It's all about the Roosevelts" composed and produced by Danny de Matos at his studio for Amber Music on behalf of DraftFCB Agency. Featuring Varsity Fanclub's Bobby Edner, the rap music style commercial shows a group of friends gathering change as they drive toward Taco Bell. The commercial represents Taco Bell's first foray into movie theater advertising, featuring the ad during the opening previews of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Public Enemies as well as screens in some movie theater lobbies.[28]

On July 1, 2009, Taco Bell replaced 20-year sponsor McDonald's as the fast food partner of the NBA. Taco Bell and the NBA agreed on a 4-year deal allowing them to advertise on ABC, TNT and ESPN, and NBA-themed promotions.[29]

On July 21, 2009, Gidget, the Chihuahua featured in Taco Bell ads in the late 1990s, was euthanized after suffering a stroke.[30] She was 15 years old.

2009 commercials for the "Frutista Freeze" frozen drink feature Snowball, an Eleonora Cockatoo noted for his ability to dance to human music.[31]

In an effort to promote its $2 Meal Deals, Taco Bell started a Facebook group in June 2010 to collect signatures on a petition that appeals to the Federal Reserve to produce more two-dollar bills.[32]

A large advertising push by Taco Bell was begun in late February 2011 in response to a consumer protection lawsuit filed against the company by an Alabama law firm. The promotion sought to counter allegations that the company falsely advertised the ratio of ingredients in its beef filling for its tacos. The spots featured employees and franchisees stating that the filling has always been a mixture of 88% beef and various spices and binders and nothing else. The ad followed several full page print ads in the New York Times and other newspapers that featured the headline "Thank you for suing us."[33] Additionally, the chain added a new social campaign using Twitter and Facebook. The company invested heavily in the campaign, spending more than $3 million (USD) putting out its message—about 20 percent more than the company usually spends on an advertising program. The various campaigns came shortly before the company began its official response to the suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California and were designed to bring public opinion into their camp. Various analysts stated that the company would have been better off using a grass-root campaign that involved in store advertising and other non-broadcast media.[34] The suit was eventually withdrawn,[35] and the company continued its advertising response by publicly requesting an apology from the suing firm of Beasley Allen. Analyst Laura Ries, of marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries, stated she believed Taco Bell's latest response was a mistake. She commented that reviving memories of a suit that the majority of the public had forgotten after the initial burst of publicity was the wrong strategy from Taco Bell.[36]

In March 2012, Taco Bell teamed up with Frito Lay and created the Doritos Locos Tacos, which is a taco with a Dorito Nacho Cheese flavored taco shell.[37] In early 2012, Taco Bell announced they would be launching a new line of breakfast menu items including a Johnsonville Foods sausage and egg wrap, breakfast burritos, hash browns, Cinnabon Delights, Seattle's Best Coffee, and orange juice.[38] Taco Bell is releasing a Mountain Dew infused drink called Mountain Dew A.M.[39]

On June 6, 2012, Taco Bell announced it would be testing a new "Cantina Menu" with upscale items in their Kentucky and California restaurants. The new menu was created by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, which will feature black beans, cilantro rice, citrus and herb marinated chicken and cilantro dressing.[40][41]

The Cool Ranch Doritos taco began being sold in stores March 7, 2013.[42] Shortly before launch, Taco Bell launched a promotion advertising that fans could get the new flavor at its stores a day early if they "just asked" on March 6. However, they neglected to inform the majority of their stores of this leading to numerous complaints on its social media sites and news sites from disappointed consumers who were unable to obtain the new taco.[43][44]

On July 23, 2013, Taco Bell announced they will stop selling kids' meals and toys at all their U.S. restaurants by January 2014. Some outlets will stop selling them as early as July 2013.[45]

On August 6, 2013, Taco Bell announced it was expanding its test market of waffle tacos to about 100 restaurants in Fresno, California, Omaha, Nebraska and Chattanooga, Tennessee, starting August 8. The waffle taco includes scrambled eggs, sausage and a side of syrup. It was the top selling item during breakfast hours at the five Southern California restaurants where they were tested earlier in 2013.[46] The breakfast menu started on March 27, 2014. Other items include A.M. Crunchwrap, Cinnabon Delights, breakfast burrito, A.M. grilled sausage flatbread melt, hash browns, coffee and orange juice.[47] The ad campaign which began March 27 used twenty-five men who were named Ronald McDonald, a reference to the famous clown of a rival chain.[48] Another commercial advertising the Waffle Taco has the narrator singing "I've been eating Egg McMuffins since 1984, But when I saw Taco Bell made a Waffle Taco, I figured I would get with the times" set to the tune of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm", another shot at the rival hamburger chain.[49]

Previously, Taco Bell's hot sauces were only available in sauce packets at the Taco Bell chain itself. In February 2014, Taco Bell made its hot sauces available for purchase, sold in bottle form at grocery stores.[50]

On April 28, 2014, Taco Bell ridiculed McDonald's for its old muffins in a breakfast campaign. The advertisement states that the McMuffin belongs in 1984.[49][51][52]

In October 2014, Taco Bell launched Pink Strawberry Starburst Freeze for a limited time only.[53] In August 2016, Taco Bell brought back its Pink Strawberry Starburst Freeze.[54]

In October 2015, Taco Bell launched a certified vegan menu.[55]

In August 2016, Taco Bell announced it would begin testing a mashup known as Cheetos Burritos at select Taco Bell restaurants[56]

On September 19, 2016, Taco Bell will launch Airheads Freeze, a drink inspired by the candy Airheads White Mystery, and allow people to guess its flavor on social media.[57]

In September 2016, Taco Bell opened pop-up in New York City, the Taco Bell VR Arcade. It is reported the pop-up is located at 79 Greene Street in SoHo, Manhattan for 2 days. Taco Bell and VR fans can demo PlayStation VR, games and food.[58] Taco Bell will also use geotargeted social posts and the rep said the brand is “hoping for just tons of buzz.”[59]

On September 15, 2016, Taco Bell introduced the Cheddar Habanero Quesarito, a quesadilla shelled burrito.[60]

Dollar Cravings

On August 18, 2014, Taco Bell launched a new value menu called Dollar Cravings.[61][62][63][64] Replacing the old Why Pay More menu, Dollar Cravings currently contains eleven food items all priced a United States dollar.[63][64][65][66][67]

Discontinued menu items

In the 1960s, Taco Bell introduced the Chiliburger, later known as the Bell Burger, then the Bell Beefer, sloppy joe-like with taco-seasoned ground beef on a hamburger bun with cheese, lettuce, onions and tomato. The Beefer was removed from the menu in the late-1980s to keep a strictly Tex Mex-inspired line up.[68]

Other discontinued items include: Seafood Salad; Enchirito (name brought back for a different item); Chicken Fiesta Burrito; Chili Cheese Burrito; Blackjack Taco.[69]

Outside the United States


Taco Bell first opened in Australia in September 1981, but Taco Bell was ordered to change its name after the owner of a local restaurant successfully sued Taco Bell for misleading conduct.[70] The local restaurant was called "Taco Bell's Casa" and had been operating in Australia since the 1970s. The owner successfully argued that Sydneysiders would confuse the takeaway chain with his restaurant, and this would damage his reputation. Taco Bell later opened in 1997 in Australia with a store in the cinema district on George Street, Sydney and a year later in 1998 within a few KFC stores in the state of New South Wales, but by 2005, the Taco Bell brand was pulled out of the country.[71]


Taco Bell has been present in Canada since 1981, with the first store opening in Windsor, Ontario. For some time it was possible to order draft beer with one's order. Taco Bell offers free soda refills in its stores.

On March 31, 2011 Priszm, owner of Taco Bell (Canada), went into bankruptcy protection in Ontario and British Columbia.[72] On May 6, 2011, Priszm Income Fund was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange for failure to meet the continued listing requirements.[73] Since then some Taco Bell restaurants have been closed down including those in Guelph, Hamilton, and Cambridge, Ontario among others.

There are currently Taco Bell locations in 7 of the 10 Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.[74]


Taco Bell has fourteen stores in Chile, thirteen of which are operated in conjunction (and in the same facilities) with Pizza Hut. All Taco Bell stores are in shopping malls located mainly in Santiago.


Taco Bell in Cyprus

A Taco Bell opened in Cyprus in December 2009 in Limassol at the MY MALL Limassol. Further restaurants are planned to be opened within the next 18 months (probably also in Cyprus' capital Nicosia).[75]


Greece's first Taco Bell opened in Athens upon the grand opening of the newly constructed Athens Metro Mall on November 30, 2010.[76][77] The restaurant closed in August 2012 and the chain withdrew from the Greek market due to the country's recession.[78]


Taco Bell in Iceland is operated as a part of the KFC establishment in Hafnarfjörður, suburb of Reykjavík. It was established in late 2006, after the departure of the U.S. Navy from Naval Air Station Keflavik. A second location opened in the Ártúnshöfði part of Reykjavik in November 2008.[79] The Ártúnshöfði location is now closed, and replaced by a new location in the nearby area of Grafarholt (together with KFC).


India's first Taco Bell outlet opened at the Mantri Square mall, Bangalore.[80] Another outlet at the Gopalan Mall, Bangalore opened in February 2011.


Taco Bell once opened shops at Tokyo and Nagoya in the 1980s, but withdrew in several years[81] and there are shops only in United States Forces Japan bases.[82] But in 2015, Taco Bell decided to challenge again and opened new shop at downtown area of Shibuya, Tokyo.[81] It has "Taco rice" and "Shrimp and avocado burrito" as its original menu.[83]


Taco Bell has attempted to enter the Mexican market twice. After a highly publicised launch in Mexico City in 1992, all the restaurants were closed two years later. In September 2007, Taco Bell returned to Monterrey, projecting an American image with an Americanized menu that included french fries, but it closed in January 2010 due to low patronage.[84][85][86]


Grilled taquitos
Double Decker Taco Special

Taco Bell opened its first Philippine branch on October 30, 2004 at the Gateway Mall in Cubao, Quezon City. They now have one on the ground floor and one on the fourth floor in the food court at the Gateway Mall. They have also added another branch at the TriNoma mall in Quezon City.


The first Polish Taco Bell store was opened in 1993. Following an aggressive campaign of expansion, Taco Bell's efforts soon withered, and the chain withdrew from Poland shortly thereafter.


In the early 1990s, Pepsico opened several Taco Bell locations inside the Moscow metro system, including Metro Park Kulturi and Metro Komsomolskaya. This experiment lasted only a few years but these locations live on under different ownership and a different name. Notably, they still sell burritos, although they bear little resemblance to Taco Bell burritos.

Saudi Arabia

Taco Bell has two restaurants in Riyadh and one in Khobar.


Taco Bell in Singapore existed for a number of years, mostly as combination stores with KFC such as the one that operated at the Funan Digital Life Mall, but in 2008, Taco Bell completely pulled out of Singapore.[87]


Spain is the most important market for Taco Bell inside Europe. There are 26 Taco Bell branches in Spain.[88] The first Taco Bell in Spain was opened at Naval Station Rota in 2004 and is available only to those authorized to access the naval base.[89] The first Taco Bell for the public was opened in the Islazul Shopping Mall, Madrid, in December 2008.[90] Yum! Brands announced that it would open additional restaurants in Spain in early 2009 as part of a test trial for the European market.[91][92] The second location of Taco Bell in Spain was opened at the La Vaguada Shopping Mall, Madrid (03/2010). Taco Bell announced, at least, 10 new restaurants through Spain.[93]

As on September 2016, there are 26 Taco Bell restaurants in Spain; 12 of them are in Madrid, and the other 14 Taco Bell are distributed through Valencia (3), Málaga (2), Barcelona (2), Zaragoza (2) and Alicante, Jerez de la Frontera, Murcia, Cádiz and Naval Station Rota with 1 restaurant.[88]

South Korea

There are currently two locations in Seoul, in the Itaewon and Hongdae districts, which attract the most foreigners and college students. The two branches opened in the summer of 2010, Itaewon's branch coming first. A Taco Bell had long been a presence at the U.S. Army's Yongsan Garrison, which is off-limits to non-military people, and for a time there was a tongue-in-cheek grassroots campaign by non-Korean, non-military foreigners in Seoul to get another Taco Bell location.[94]

United Arab Emirates

A Taco Bell opened in the United Arab Emirates in November 2008 in Dubai at the Dubai Mall.[95]

Two more locations were opened at Mirdif City Centre and Deira City Centre in 2010. A fourth UAE location was also planned for Bawadi Mall in the city of Al Ain.

As of February 2012, the locations at Dubai Mall, Deira City Centre, and Mirdif City Centre have all closed and Taco Bell has completely pulled out of the UAE market.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom was the first European country with a Taco Bell. In 1986, a location was opened in London on Coventry Street (between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus) followed by a second location in Earls Court near the Earl's Court tube station. One other store opened in Uxbridge but all closed in the mid-1990s.[96] In 1994, the university food provider Compass announced plans for outlets on its university and college sites. However, only one store was opened at Birmingham University, which is now closed.[97][98]

After the Birmingham University branch closed, there were only two Taco Bell branches in the UK, at the Strategic Air Command and United States Air Force bases at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath. Access is restricted to relevant service personnel.[99]

In the late 2000s, Yum! Brands announced that it was reopening Taco Bell locations in the United Kingdom as part of a large planned expansion into Europe. Yum! is taking advantage of the recent recession which led to increasing sales at other fast food outlets; it also said that there was now a greater awareness of Mexican food in the UK and that it can be successful with improved menu offerings and marketing.[91][92] The first new store opened at the Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex on June 28, 2010.[100] Another store opened in Basildon, Essex on November 29, 2010 and a third in the Manchester Arndale Food Court on November 7, 2011.

On March 1, 2013, it was announced that horse meat had been found in Taco Bell's beef in the UK, hampering the chain's growth in that already-stubborn market.[101]

As of January 2016, there are nine Taco Bell branches in the UK: three in Essex and six in the north of England.[102]

Other countries

Taco Bell is present in the Dominican Republic, Guam, Aruba, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and on AAFES military bases in Germany, Iraq, Brazil, Guatemala,[103] and El Salvador.[104]

See also


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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Fast food in North America.
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