(March 21, 1962)
|Headquarters||1 Glen Bell Way, Irvine, California, U.S.|
|Number of locations||6,446 restaurants (2009)|
|Key people||Glen Bell, Founder
Greg Creed, President, CEO
|Products||Tacos, burritos, and other Tex-Mex cuisine-related fast food|
|Revenue||$1.9 billion (2009)|
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 more than 5,800 restaurants in the U.S., more than 80 percent of which are owned and operated by independent franchisees.
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 in 1946 when he was 23 years old. Six years later, he sold the stand and opened a new one two years later, this time selling tacos under the name of Taco-Tia. 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. 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, and located it in Torrance. The company grew rapidly, and by 1967, the 100th restaurant opened at 400 South Brookhurst in Anaheim. In 1970, Taco Bell went public with 325 restaurants. In 1978, PepsiCo purchased Taco Bell from Glen Bell.
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. Taco Bell Express locations operate primarily inside convenience stores, truck stops, shopping malls, and airports.
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. 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 is still open as of 2012.
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 of the coalition's demands to improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers in its supply chain.
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. The CIW-Yum agreement set several precedents, establishing:
- The first direct, ongoing payment by a fast-food industry leader to farm workers in its supply chain to address substandard farm-labor wages (nearly doubling the percentage of the final retail price that goes to the workers who pick the produce).
- The first enforceable Code of Conduct for agricultural suppliers in the fast-food industry (which includes the CIW, a worker-based organization, as part of the investigative body for monitoring worker complaints).
- Market incentives for agricultural suppliers willing to respect their workers’ human rights, even when those rights are not guaranteed by law;
- Full transparency for Taco Bell’s tomato purchases in Florida; the agreement commits Taco Bell to buy only from Florida growers who agree to the pass-through and to document and monitor the pass-through, providing complete records of Taco Bell’s Florida tomato purchases and growers’ wage records to the CIW.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. The offer was again valid for the 2012 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.
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.
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. 
Infomercial salesman Billy Mays signed a deal in June 2009 to shoot infomercial-style commercials for the chain, with filming to begin in August. His unexpected death from a heart attack on June 28, 2009 canceled those plans.
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.
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 of 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." 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. The suit was eventually withdrawn, and the company continued its advertising response by publicly requesting an apology from the suing firm of Beasly Allen. Analyst Laura Ries, of marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries, stated she believed Taco Bell's latest response was a mistake. She went on to comment that reviving memories of a suit that the majority of the public had forgotten after the initial burst of publicity, commenting "when you run these ads defending, defending, defending, sometimes people think, "Well, wait a minute, why are they trying so hard to defend themselves?"
In spring 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. 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. Taco Bell is releasing a Mountain Dew infused drink called Mountain Dew A.M.
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.
The Cool Ranch Doritos taco began being sold in stores March 7, 2013. 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.
Taco Bell has used the following advertising slogans:
- Current - "Live Más" (With the introduction of the Cantina Bell menu)
- mid-2001 - 2012 - "Think outside the bun"
- early 2001 - mid-2001 - "Get it at The Bell."
- 1999 - 2001 - "Grande taste. Loco value."
- Late 1990s - "Spice Up The Night" (For Taco Bell's late night day part)
- Mid 1990s - "Make A Run For The Border"
- Late 1980s - early 1990s - "Hello Taco Bell"
- 1987-late 1980s - "The Cure For The Common Meal"
- Early 1980s - mid-1980s - "All of The Above"
- Late 1970s - "Just Made For You"
- 1976-1979 - "The Fresh Food Place"
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. 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 St in 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.
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. On May 6, 2011, Priszm Income Fund was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange for failure to meet the continued listing requirements. Since then some Taco Bell restaurants have been closed down including those in Guelph, Hamilton, and Cambridge, Ontario among others.
Taco Bell have 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.
In 2003, Yum! Brands introduced the Taco Bell brand into People's Republic of China. The Chinese Taco Bell restaurants were not fast-food restaurants like other Taco Bells. Instead, they were full-service restaurants called Taco Bell Grande that are more analogous to a Mexican grill in the United States. In addition to the usual taco and burritos, Taco Bell Grande also served other Mexican cuisine like albóndigas (meatball soup), tomatillo grilled chicken, fajitas, and alcoholic drinks such as Margaritas. The chain had operated three restaurants in China, two in Shenzhen and one in Shanghai. However, the Shanghai location closed at the end of January 2008. One location in Shenzhen closed on February 20, 2008; the second location followed shortly after, closing on March 5, 2008.
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).
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. The Ártúnshöfði location is now closed, and replaced by a new location in the nearby area of Grafarholt (together with KFC). (update 07/2011)
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, this time promoting itself as selling "authentic American food," but closed in January 2010 due to low patronage.
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 90's, 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.
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.
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. The first Taco Bell for the general public was opened in the Islazul Shopping Mall, Madrid, in December 2008. Yum! Brands announced that it would open additional restaurants in Spain in early 2009 as part of a test trial for the European market. A second location has now opened at the La Vaguada Shopping Mall, Madrid (03/2010). Another location recently opened at the Plaza Mayor shopping mall in Malaga, Spain.
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.
United Arab Emirates
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.
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. In 1994, the university food provider Compass announced plans to open stores in its university and college sites. However, only one store was opened in Birmingham University, no other stores were opened, and the Birmingham site is now closed. There remained only Taco Bell sites in the UK in operation at the Strategic Air Command and United States Air Force bases at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath; commensurate with existing security controls, access is restricted to relevant service personnel.
Yum! Brands announced that it is considering reopening Taco Bell locations in the United Kingdom as part of a large planned expansion into Europe, with trial outlets opening first in Spain in early 2009. Yum! is taking advantage of the recent recession which led to increasing sales at other fast food outlets; it also said that there is now a greater awareness of Mexican food in the UK and that it can be successful with improved menu offerings and marketing. The first new store opened at the Lakeside Shopping Centre on June 28, 2010. Taco Bell opened a second store in Basildon on November 29, 2010 and the 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.
Taco Bell is also present in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Guam, Aruba, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and on AAFES military bases in Japan, Germany, Iraq, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, India, El Salvador, Guatemala, South Korea, and Spain are the only countries where Taco Bell offers French fries. Different countries offer different types of fries.
Canada offers four types of fries: regular, cheesy, chili cheese, and Fries Supreme (fries topped with beef chili, cheese, and chives).
The UK branches offer Mexican (seasoned) fries.
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