Taco Bell is trading in its one-size-fits all restaurant design for more modern upgrades. The chain, which is a unit of Yum! Brands Inc., will be testing four new design concepts as the company aims to open 2,000 new restaurants in 2016.
The Irvine-based Mexican fast-food chain is testing four new restaurant designs that represent its next generation of stores. Making their debut this summer, each experimental store has a name to match its aesthetics: Modern Explorer, California Sol, Heritage and Urban Edge.
“One size fits all is no longer what we’re doing,” said Deborah Brand, vice president of development and design. “These are the new concepts that all new restaurants will adopt.”
The California Sol design, for example, embraces climate-friendly communities with indoor-outdoor seating, beach-inspired artwork, exposed beams and midcentury modern seating. The Heritage brand, on the other hand, is more Mexican-inspired with large tile floors, rustic tabletops and large hacienda-style chandeliers.
Brand’s team embarked on the task of creating the future look of Taco Bell in August – around the same time the chain debuted an experimental fast-food restaurant in Chicago. The Wicker Park restaurant has an exhibition kitchen and serves alcohol.
The four restaurant designs fall under the same “umbrella” of changes made in Chicago, Brand said. However, the remodeled restaurants will not serve alcohol.
The pilot designs come nearly a year after Taco Bell closed U.S. Taco Co., the chain’s failed experiment at developing a hip fast-casual brand.
Taco Bell said the four designs will make their debut this summer in Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Tustin and Brea. New Taco Bell restaurants are expected to adopt one of the four designs that best fits the community it serves, Brand said.
Franchisees can choose a design when their stores are up for a remodel. Most restaurants undergo major remodels about every 20 years, she said.
Taco Bell joins the fray of decades-old food brands upscaling their look.
McDonald’s, Lake Forest-based Del Taco and Wendy’s have been remodeling restaurants to mimic contemporary fast-casual brands like Panera Bread. Aging casual brands are also rethinking decor. Last month, Lake Forest-based Johnny Rockets said it planned to scrap its signature nostalgic diner look for a more modern design.