Taco Bell Outlines 10,000 Store Digital-First Expansion

The restaurant chain will start with 30 new 'Go Mobile' locations by the end of 2021.

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Need to Know

  • The brand is aiming to have 10,000 restaurants open globally by 2030, and will accomplish this goal by leveraging new, digital-first formats such as drive-thrus, tablet ordering, and curbside pickup.
  • Taco Bell also plans to roll out its “Go Mobile” restaurant concept, which features multiple drive-thru lanes and focuses on mobile ordering and pickup, to 30 more locations nationwide by the end of 2021.
  • The chain also plans a Manhattan restaurant that will be a completely digital, kiosk-focused in-person experience.

Analysis

Taco Bell is doubling down on its digital strategy, announcing its plan to roll out more of its digital- and mobile-focused restaurants throughout 2021 and beyond.

In an announcement on March 23, the Yum brands franchise revealed that it is on track to have 10,000 restaurants open globally this decade, and will be prioritizing digital infrastructure when opening its next 1,000 restaurants over the course of 2021. This will include the nationwide rollout of Taco Bell’s Go Mobile restaurant concept, which it launched in August of last year. The Go Mobile restaurant has a small physical footprint, multiple drive-thru lanes, and focuses on mobile ordering and contactless pickup. The digital-forward concept, which proved popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, is now a cornerstone of Taco Bell’s expansion strategy: Taco Bell plans to open 30 more Go Mobile restaurants by the end of 2021.

A look at Taco Bell’s order-ahead kiosks.

“Prioritizing our development plans continues to be a major focus for 2021, especially as we look towards building our next 1,000 restaurants,” Mike Grams, Taco Bell’s president and global COO, said in a statement. “Our restaurant portfolio continues to rapidly evolve, striking a crucial balance between being technology-forward and social-oriented. Even amid the challenging pandemic, we are continuing to grow due in large part to the strength in our franchise partnerships as well as the flexible formats we offer.”

Taco Bell responded to a shift in customer demand during the coronavirus pandemic which showed consumers prioritizing contactless purchasing experiences, drive-thrus, and mobile ordering over in-store dining. Taco Bell and franchisee Diversified Restaurant Group partnered to open the first-ever drive-thru Taco Bell Cantina in Danville, Calif. The restaurant features an outdoor fire pit and game area, as well as full bar offerings. The restaurant chain is planning to open a first-of-its-kind restaurant in Manhattan later this year that will be kiosk-focused, providing a completely digital in-person experience.

The expansion of Taco Bell’s Go Mobile restaurant concept will also introduce more “bellhops” to the ordering experience. Bellhops are concierge service team members, who help improve drive-thru speeds even further with tablet ordering and curbside pickup. Taco Bell says that customers can expect to see up to 1,000 bellhops at Taco Bell locations across the U.S. by summer 2021.

Taco Bell implemented a number of digital innovations pre-pandemic, which helped it launch larger digital-focused projects, such as Go Mobile, throughout 2020. In January, the restaurant chain launched an app update, which brought AI personalization to mobile ordering; two months later, in early March, Taco Bell expanded its digital kiosks and menu boards to more of its urban locations.

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