Taco Bell brings the high-tech border to Sin City

Taco Bell made its debut on the Las Vegas Strip earlier this year, opening up the brand’s 7,000th restaurant and first flagship destination.

Alongside its opening, Taco Bell revealed its first logo refresh in over 20 years and follows the recent unveiling of new restaurant design concepts.

“If you’re going to throw a party to celebrate the growth and evolution of your brand, there’s no better place to hold it than Las Vegas,” Taco Bell CMO Marisa Thalberg said. “This flagship restaurant is our ultimate expression of the Taco Bell brand and lifestyle.”

The flagship restaurant will feature digital menu boards and digital queues to monitor customers’ order process, in addition to portable ordering tablets to reduce wait times. The 16 screens lining the interior wall will feature entertainment, live-stream video, sports and social media conversation.

According to Taco Bell, these latest developments represent the brand’s evolution and growth plan to become a $15 billion brand by 2022 while adding 2,000 new restaurants globally and 100,000 new jobs in the U.S.

Las Vegas becomes the fourth Taco Bell Cantina restaurant to open, following Wicker Park Chicago, SOMA San Francisco and Austin, and the first of its kind to offer 24-hour service. The flagship restaurant is centrally-located on the Las Vegas Strip on Harmon Corner, directly across from CityCenter and The Cosmopolitan Hotel.

The restaurant will offer a dining atmosphere fit for the lifestyle of the Vegas Strip, inclusive of experiences unique to Taco Bell Cantinas:

  • Retail: The Taco Bell retail experience is the latest example of how the brand looks to create new cultural ground. For the first time, customers can now purchase exclusive Taco Bell merchandise and memorabilia in the restaurant. Selections include limited edition Las Vegas-branded retail and newly designed brand merchandise, ranging from hats, shirts and bags to bikinis, rings and sweatshirts. Select branded merchandise will also be available online in Taco Bell’s Taco Shop.
  • Freeze Wall: Eight Freeze drink taps line the back wall. Equipped with eight base flavors (Margarita, Cola, Pina Colada, Lemonade, Orange, Baja Blast, Cherry and Blue Raspberry), customers can add alcohol (Tequila, Rum, Vodka, Whiskey and Spiced Rum) and additional flavors for customized concoctions. Both Freezes and Twisted Freezes (those including alcohol) will be served in 16 or 32 oz. souvenir cups.
  • Technology: The flagship restaurant will feature digital menu boards and digital queues to monitor customers’ order process, in addition to portable ordering tablets to reduce wait times. The 16 screens lining the interior wall will feature entertainment, live-stream video, sports and social media conversation.
  • Transparency: An open kitchen design and food served in open-faced baskets gives customers a look inside Taco Bell’s quality ingredients.
  • Shareables: Cantina restaurants feature a tapas-style menu of shareable appetizers – including nachos, quesadillas and chicken fingers, in addition to the full craveable and affordable Taco Bell Menu.
  • Vegas Touches: Dedicated space for DJ entertainment, Wall of Taps, outdoor misters and heaters, community style seating, VIP lounges and unique custom artwork will also be featured. The two-story building is faced with a wall of glass, an upstairs mezzanine and lounge overlooking the action and an outdoor patio right in the middle of it all on Harmon Corner and the Vegas Strip.

While Taco Bell restaurants have seen continuous evolution, the logo has remained unchanged. In fact, the previous logo made its debut back in 1995.

In what the brand terms an “evolution, not revolution,” the new logo mirrors the new restaurant strategy: One size doesn’t fit all. In this modern take, color makes a splash and allows customization through patterns and textures, giving usage flexibility while maintaining its iconic framework.

Digital rollout of the logo refresh took place in November, while physical assets like restaurant design, packaging and impacted retail partners will roll out more gradually, depending on development and refresh timelines.

The refreshed logo was created in partnership with leading creative consultancy Lippincott and Taco Bell’s internal design group, TBD.

In 2015, Taco Bell opened more than 275 new restaurants, remodeled about 600 more, and is currently on pace to exceed both numbers in 2016. Of the 2,000 restaurants planned to be built by 2022, 200 will be urban locations – a typically underrepresented geographic area for the brand.

“Building new restaurants is a key component to the overall growth and evolution of Taco Bell,” said Brian Niccol, CEO at Taco Bell Corp. “Great design, great food and great economics are at the heart of our growth.”

Urban concept restaurants have five things in common that differentiate them from standard Taco Bell restaurants: décor, local artwork, open kitchen layout, open plating and shareable menus. In 2015, Taco Bell also opened up the first of its two Cantina restaurants in San Francisco and Chicago. Cantina restaurants may also serve alcoholic beverages, which can include beer, wine, sangria and twisted Freezes.

Future Urban and Cantina locations are currently in development in Cincinnati, Berkeley, Fayetteville, San Antonio and Cleveland, while numerous cities across the U.S. are under consideration for future locations.

Christopher Hall

Christopher Hall is the Managing Director of the ICX Association. As the former editor of both DigitalSignageToday.com and KioskMarketplace.com, he brings years of experience as a reporter and analyst of the interactive technology space to bear in his role as he works to move the interactive customer experience technology sector forward.

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