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Posted: May 18, 2016

Taco Bell reveals plans for new, sleek-looking restaurants

(Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Taco Bell)
Randy Shropshire
(Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Taco Bell)

By Ryan Biek

Taco Bell plans to swap out the company's familiar neon colors, fluorescent lighting and cartoonish visual displays for LED lighting, reclaimed wood and energy-efficient heating and cooling.

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Four new designs will take over existing restaurants in Orange County, California, this summer, with a broader revamp planned this year. 

“While all four restaurant designs each have a different contextual personality, they all share a commonality in expressing Taco Bell’s brand like never before,” said Marisa Thalberg, chief marketing officer at Taco Bell Corp. “From the open kitchen that showcases our freshly prepared foods to the community tables designed for friends to hang out, each of these formats fosters a modern, unique experience.” 

Deborah Brand, the fast food chain's vice president of development and design, told USA Today the changes were made with dinner in mind. 

“It’s no longer one size fits all,” she said. “Consumers are looking for a localized, customized and personalized experiences that reflect the diversity of their communities. The flexibility in bringing these four designs to life gives us just that.”

Most of the company's customers complete orders via the drive-thru, and the company hopes to compete with more modern fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle for sit-down sales. 

Taco Bell hasn't been afraid to challenge competitors, but the results have been mixed. In 2014, the company added a breakfast menu to chip away at McDonald's dominance in the mornings, but a year later, breakfast still only accounted for 6 percent of Taco Bell's sales.  

Sales may be on the rise this year, however, after Taco Bell doubled down and started offering a $1 Morning Value Menu. 

As for dinner, Taco Bell started its transition to the more upscale last year when it opened two "Cantina" restaurants that serve alcohol. 

The company, which plans to open 2,000 new restaurants by 2022, alluded to expanding the Cantina concept when it announced its four new modern restaurant designs. 

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

Read more here.


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