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The classic Taco Bell logo used from 1985 to 1994.
It is still in use at many older Taco Bell locations.
A Taco Bell restaurant design that was popular in the 1980s and 1990s.
Taco Bell's current restaurant design.


Taco Bell is a restaurant chain based in Irvine, Californiamarker. A subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., it specializes in Mexican-style food and quick service.

Taco Bell serves tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, other specialty items and a wide variety of "Value Menu" items. Taco Bell serves more than 2 billion consumers each year in more than 5,800 restaurants in the U.S., of which more than 80 percent are owned and operated by independent franchises.

History

Founding and growth

Glen Bell, a former Marine, began the chain with his first restaurant in San Bernardino, Californiamarker. He named it Bell's Drive-in. Glen Bell was 23 when he left the Marine Corps in 1946. He was an avid Mexican food take-out customer. Aware of the hang-ups in ordering tacos to go from a full-service restaurant, he wanted to change the method of preparation. He began by selling various hot dogs, including a chili dog in a Mexican neighborhood. At the same time, he researched tacos. Glen Bell sold the El Tacos to his partners and built the first Taco Bell in Downey in 1962. Kermit Becky, a former Los Angeles police officer, bought the first Taco Bell franchise in 1964. Dane Stephenson established the first Taco Bell in New Jersey in 1964.

Taco Bell Express

In 1991, Taco Bell opened the first Taco Bell Express in San Francisco, Californiamarker. 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, malls, and airports.

Controversies

In November 2006, Taco Bell made local headlines when 22 customers were sickened by the E. coli bacteria. The bacteria was traced to three New Jerseymarker restaurants. While some people were hospitalized, none was severely harmed.

In February 2007, Taco Bell again made headlines when a Taco Bell/KFC restaurant in Manhattanmarker was overrun by rats; footage of the rodents scurrying about were shown on news shows around the globe. The location was closed by order of the Department of Health until the issues were resolved. The outbreak prompted the closure of several additional Taco Bell restaurants throughout the Northeastern United States.

CIW

In March 2005, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers 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 Floridamarker 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.


Lawsuits

Chihuahua

A lawsuit filed in 1998 by Joseph Shields and Thomas Rinks alleged Taco Bell failed to pay them for use of the Chihuahua character they created. The men alleged that Taco Bell had breached payment on a contract after they worked with the restaurant chain for a year to develop the talking Chihuahua for use in marketing. The Chihuahua became a hit: In a commercial, the character bypasses a female Chihuahua for a Taco Bell taco and declares: "Yo quiero Taco Bell." The two men received $30.1 million in compensation plus nearly $12 million in additional interest three months later. Taco Bell in turn sued its ad agency TBWA saying it should have been aware of the conflicts. In 2009, a three-judge federal appeals panel ruled against Taco Bell.

50 Cent

The rap artist 50 Cent filed a federal lawsuit against Taco Bell on July 23, 2008. The suit claimed that his name was used in a print ad asking him to change his name to 79 Cent, 89 Cent or 99 Cent as a part of the "Why Pay More?" campaign. 50 Cent was not aware of the ad until it came out, while fake letters containing the name change request were sent to the news media for promotional purposes. He sought $4 million in damages. In turn, Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch said they made a good faith, charitable offer of $10,000 to 50 Cent if he would change his name to 79, 89 or 99 Cent for one day and rap his order at a Taco Bell location.

Menu

Two basic "crunchy" corn shell beef Taco Bell tacos

Border Bell

In 1997, PepsiCo experimented with a new "fresh grill" concept, opening at least one Border Bell restaurant in Mountain View, Californiamarker 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.

"Fresco-style" menu

In 2003, Taco Bell's current head of Public Relations Kassandra Marshall launched the "fresco-style" menu. By ordering something fresco style, the item's cheese and/or sauce is replaced by the chain's fiesta salsa. Using this option cuts the fat in the product in half in some cases.

Reduction of trans fats

As of April, 2007, Taco Bell had switched to zero trans fat frying oil in all of its US single-branded locations.

Volcano Taco and Volcano Double Beef Burrito

Taco Bell revealed in June 2009 that it will be adding to its main menu the Volcano Double Beef Burrito and the Volcano Taco, a former limited-time item.

Cupcakes and Smoothies

It was reported in October 2009 that the chain has been testing smoothies, mini-snacks, and other items. A juice bar has been installed in some restaurants along with a display containing cupcakes and other snacks.

Advertising



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 Boisemarker State Pavilion in Idahomarker and renamed the stadium Taco Bell Arenamarker.

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 Fieldmarker, which was paid out on October 28, 2008.

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". 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 has 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.

On July 21, 2009, Gidget, the Chihuahua featured in Taco Bell ads in the late 1990s, died at the age of fifteen from being put to sleep after having a stroke.

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

Outside the United States

Australia

Taco Bell first opened in Australia in September 1981, but was ordered to change its name after the owner of a local restaurant successfully sued them 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 later in 2002 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.Since then it seems Australians are developing a taste for quality Mexican (obviously at much higher prices than Taco Bell) with the success of the Mad Mex and Guzman y Gomez chains.

Canada

Canada's Taco Bell restaurants are relatively the same as the US.

China

Taco Bell Grande's Logo
2003, Yum! Brands introduced the Taco Bell brand into People's Republic of Chinamarker. 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 Shenzhenmarker 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.

Iceland

Taco Bell in Icelandmarker is operated as a part of the KFC establishment in Hafnarfjörðurmarker, suburb of Reykjavíkmarker. It was established in late 2006, after the departure of the U.S. Navy from Naval Air Station Keflavikmarker. A second location opened in the Ártúnshöfði part of Reykjavik in November 2008

India

Taco Bell has a restaurant in Mantri mall, Malleswarammarker, Bangaloremarker. This is the first Taco Bell establishment in India.

Mexico

After a failed attempt to enter the market in 1992 that finished with all the restaurants closing two years later, in September 2007 Taco Bell returned to that country. The first restaurant in the northern city of Monterreymarker is part of a plan to open between 8 and 10 more locations in 2008 and eventually reach 300 stores.

Philippines

Taco Bell opened its first Philippinemarker 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 4th floor in the food court at the Gateway Mall. They have also added another branch at the TriNoma mall in Quezon Citymarker.

Singapore

Taco Bell in Singaporemarker 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 they completely pulled out of Singapore.

Spain

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, Madridmarker, in December 2008. Yum! Brands announced that it would open additional restaurants in Spainmarker in early 2009 as part of a test trial for the European market.

United Arab Emirates

A Taco Bell opened in the United Arab Emirates in November 2008 in Dubaimarker at the Dubai Mallmarker.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom was the first European country with a Taco Bell. In 1986 a location was opened in London on Coventry Streetmarker (between Leicester Squaremarker and Piccadilly Circusmarker) followed by a second location in Earls Courtmarker near the Earl's Court tube stationmarker. One other store opened in Uxbridgemarker 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 Universitymarker, no other stores were opened and the Birmingham site is now closed.

Yum! Brands has 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 has led to increasing sales at other fast food outlets, it also says 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..

See also



Notes

  1. Hispanic PR Wire - Taco Bell 'Fresco Style' Cuts the Fat, Not the Flavor; Company Announces New Option for Health-Conscious Consumers
  2. Taco Bell
  3. TB Nutrition Calculator
  4. Taco Bell press release March 19, 2001
  5. http://www.sde.state.id.us/webdocs/DailyEdNews/2004%20July-Dec%20Archive/04-10-26_Tuesday.htm
  6. Taco Bell's Big Enchilada - Forbes.com
  7. http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/fan_forum/tacobell/
  8. http://ourpdx.net/2008/11/brother-can-you-spare-a-chalupa/
  9. http://blog.cleveland.com/andone/2008/06/shawn_kemp_by_the_fans.html
  10. http://www.foodfacts.info/blog/2009/06/taco-bells-video-all-about-roosevelts.html
  11. http://www.qsrmagazine.com/articles/news/story.phtml?id=8865
  12. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4300399
  13. http://www.tmz.com/2009/06/28/billy-mays-had-just-inked-a-deal-with-taco-bell?icid=sphere_searchsphere_news
  14. http://omg.yahoo.com/news/taco-bell-chihuahua-dies-at-15/25534?nc
  15. http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FCA/1981/219.html?query=^taco%20bell
  16. Taco Bell Shanghai Closes Shop
  17. Adios, Taco Bell Grande
  18. 2nd location in Iceland
  19. "http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9e0ce1dc123ff936a35755c0a964958260"
  20. Taco Bell makes a run across the border - Food Inc. - MSNBC.com
  21. Taco Bell Philippines
  22. http://www.funan.com.sg
  23. http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=21387 Taco Bell, KFC Express set to open at Rota
  24. http://franquiciashoy.es/noticias/19930/18/12/2008.html
  25. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122705632904339487.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
  26. http://www.propertyweek.com/story.asp?sectioncode=297&storycode=3128636&c=1
  27. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122705632904339487.html
  28. Yankee retreat - 26 July 2001 - CatererSearch
  29. Compass pilots Taco Bell unit - 29 September 1994 - CatererSearch


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