Taco Bell Boldly Goes Where Consumers Have Been For Years
I'm picking up a pattern of how fast food joints operate. When they undergo a major refresh of their advertising like Sonic. Or undergo a major menu revamp like Taco Bell. A new restaurant design or refresh follows. So I wasn't surprised when I read that Taco Bell was boldly leading their customers into territory where most of us have been for years.
And that territory includes double drive through lanes, curbside pickup, and Bellhops. Bellhops are the employees who will standout in the drive through lane and take your order on a tablet. Somewhat like the employees do during rush periods at the Warrensburg Culver's, and a tactic that's used by Chic-Fil-A and the popular Chicago Area Hot Dog and Italian Beef chain Portillo's.
The foot print of the stores will be smaller, as it seems dining in is going to be de-emphasized. And this is what I mean when I say Taco Bell is boldly leading us where we've been for the past 20 years. Even pre-pandemic, how often did many of us actually eat in at a Taco Bell, or a McDonald's or any traditional fast food place?
That's not to say no one uses them. I've seen families with little kids eating in at fast food places. And there's always at least one fast food place in town where the seniors gather to chat over coffee and the morning paper. But even pre-pandemic I bet most of us availed ourselves of the ubiquitous fast food drive through much more than grabbing our tray of food and sitting down in an uncomfortable, unmovable, hard seat or booth.
My point is, everything I've mentioned that Taco Bell is doing isn't that new. Portillo's has been putting employees out in drive through lines for at least a decade. The precision and speed with how they take and fulfill an order is amazing. McDonald's has had double drive through lines at some restaurants for a long time too. And a restaurant design that caters more to the drive through or eat in their car crowd isn't anything new. Although it doesn't seem like it's been deployed to a great extent by major fast food places like Taco Bell or McDonald's.
That's not to say Taco Bell isn't doing anything innovative. One of their drive through lanes will be a priority pick up lane for customers who order ahead via the app. That's fantastic. As at this point, an app order doesn't necessarily move anyone through the drive through faster.
They also talk up using the app for a more accurate restaurant experience. "Taco Bell’s focus on improving drive-thru service and encouraging guests to order ahead unlocks a faster and more accurate restaurant experience than ever before." We've done that and that's true. At least from the point of having the right toppings on my food, and more importantly, the toppings I hate NOT on my food. Yeah I'm picky.
So Taco Bell will boldly go where their customers have been for quite some time. Whether or not franchises will embrace smaller stores, and whether or not Taco Bell fans will embrace their slimmed down menu from last month remain to be seen.