By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business
Taco Bell’s newest location ditches the dining room and has four drive-thru lanes instead.
The first-of-its-kind concept, called “Taco Bell Defy,” opened Tuesday in a Minneapolis suburb and is aimed at “redefining drive-thrus as consumers know it,” the chain said. Customers will notice that the kitchen is on top of the two-story building and orders are delivered via a “vertical lift” to their cars.
“For decades we’ve been committed to providing a fast, safe and friendly drive-thru experience,” said Taco Bell president Mike Grams in a statement. “Now with our bold goal of creating a two minute or less drive-thru experience for customers of this concept, Taco Bell Defy is the future.”
Another advantage, according to Taco Bell, is reducing the amount of time customers spend in the drive thru. A 2021 survey from QSR magazine said that a Taco Bell order takes an average of 268 seconds, or about 4.5 minutes, to complete. With Defy, the chain is looking to shorten the process to 2 minutes or less thanks to the multiple drive-thru lanes.
Each lane will have a distinct purpose, including one for customers who order on the Taco Bell app, another for delivery drivers and the others for traditional orders that is equipped with “two-way audio and video technology service for customers to talk to team members on the second floor,” the company said.
Taco Bell has experimented with a number of pandemic-prompted design changes. In 2020, the chain debuted a “Go Mobile” concept that reduced the size of dining rooms and featured two drive-thru lanes. Inside, customers see more digital kiosks in addition to in-person staff who will take orders.
The designs are in response to the changing ways consumers have been ordering fast food since the pandemic began. Digital orders and drive-thrus exploded in popularity for essentially every chain, including Chipotle, McDonald’s and Starbucks.
For Yum Brands, Taco Bell’s parent company, digital sales grew 15% to a record $6 billion in the first quarter for all of its brands, the company revealed in a recent earnings call. Yum Brands also owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Habit Burger.
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