Taco Bell is not just thinking outside the bun--it’s reimagining the role of the store employee entirely in a new, digital-only store concept opening in New York City’s Times Square.
The new restaurant, which is located in the historic Paramount Building, features an urban-oriented Cantina format, according to Chain Store Age. With a digital-only approach, customers can order food and beverages in two ways: through 10 self-service digital menu kiosks in the restaurant or order ahead through the e-commerce website or app. The digital menus completely replace the traditional menu boards, while store employees, instead of taking orders, are redeployed for higher-level customer service duties.
Taco Bell’s new store concept reflects the ongoing trend of adding more digital options that have become popularized in grocery stores and big box retailers as well, through self-checkout kiosks. Going digital-only may help Taco Bell streamline its app and online ordering--a critical solution for retailers and restaurants as consumers have flocked to e-commerce since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
Taco Bell is not the only chain restaurant experimenting with store concepts during a time of rapid consumer behavior changes. Seven-Eleven also recently debuted a drive-thru within one of its Evolution stores for its own Laredo Taco Company in South Texas.
The Catina store format has a smaller footprint and modern elements, such as an open kitchen, more upscale menu and alcoholic beverages on the menu. The in-store digital kiosks also offer Taco Bell merchandise that customers can purchase. Customers who order their food ahead of time will find a separate double-door entrance to skip any lines or traditional restaurant experience to pick up their order by entering an order number on a touchscreen and grabbing their order from a designated cubby.
The concept is not Taco Bell’s only innovative store design. The restaurant debuted Taco Bell Go Mobile last year that enhances its drive-thru and digital experience, with priority drive-thru lanes for mobile orders, smart kitchen technology, contactless curbside pickup and tablet ordering in drive-thrus.
Taco Bell already operates 60 restaurants and 20 Cantina-style stores in New York City neighborhoods, plus another 200 in greater New York. The company wants to grow to a $20 billion operator with 10,000 locations within the decade, CSA reported.