The Chain Gang

Taco Bell Is Testing ‘Upscale’ Store Designs

The “Heritage” design.

Because Taco Bell’s “biggest food creation yet” — the Quesalupa it debuted in February — appears to be an unmitigated failure, the chain’s back with another exciting new way to live más: Welcome to the era of “upscale” Taco Bells. The go-to destination for 2 a.m. drunk food is testing out a handful of store redesigns in California this summer that amount to a real paradigm shift — just imagine: Tables are “no longer bolted to the floor”! USA Today reports that the “fluorescent lighting and neon purple glow” long associated with the chain will first disappear at four prototypes in Orange County, before expanding to another four stores later this year. The look bears undeniable similarities to the failed U.S. Taco Co. concept Taco Bell tried in 2014, but the company says if these redesigns prove popular this time, it could roll them out nationwide.

Each of the four schemes is nominally different, but there’s no doubt a common décor theme probably best described as Things You Can Order on Etsy to Re-create a Circa-2009 Brooklyn Bistro. In other words, a profusion of Edison bulbs, chalkboards, and industrial furniture made of reclaimed wood and metal. Some dining tables are now communal and come festooned with phrases like “Live a life worth sharing,” and suddenly there’s an option to engulf Chalupas alfresco on cushioned patio chairs. The chain explains the reason for the redesign is because too many people who patronize the Bell do it from the drive-through — in other words, at max distance from the store’s insides, which generally feature floor grease and a sour ground-beef smell as prominent features. Taco Bell hopes people who come (stumble?) into these new stores will casually note the spot looks dinner-date-worthy before heading to the bathroom to throw up their Quesarito.


Taco Bell Testing ‘Upscale’ Store Designs