350 boozy Taco Bells by year-end? Not quite

| by S.A. Whitehead
350 boozy Taco Bells by year-end? Not quite

Despite numerous business and general news media stories indicating otherwise, Taco Bell is not "literally" opening 350 of its so-called "cantinas" by the end of this year. The more upscale cantinas feature alcoholic drinks as well as accoutrements more suited to the fast casual category than the traditional QSR format the brand has adhered to in the past. 

A spokeswoman for the brand clarified that there will not be 350 cantinas, nor even 350 restaurants in the chain serving alcoholic beverages by year's end, as has been widely reported. 

"By the end of 2017, an additional 350 restaurants will have been refreshed," spokeswoman Regina Wu wrote in response to an email from QSRweb. "Many of these restaurants will be cantinas, and therefore serve alcohol, but … it won’t be literally all 350."

Wu explained that Taco Bell has opened a dozen of its "urban in-line" concept stores, seven of which are cantinas serving alcohol. Cantinas are located in Austin, Texas; Chicago; Las Vegas; Cleveland; Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Berkeley, California. She said that within the next five years the brand wants to have 300 of a planned 1,000 new urban in-line locations open in high growth-potential markets.  

"The urban in-line and Cantina concept[s] allow us to enter markets that are typically harder for us, so we have our sights set on obviously New York City and Chicago, but also Detroit and Boston, as well as highly walkable areas, which is why you see college campuses on the list," Wu told QSR Web. "We are excited to be in New York City, as it is our biggest market opportunity for the 300 urban in-lines we are looking to open by 2022 nationwide. Around 50 of the 300 restaurants planned to open by 2022 will be in New York City and the surrounding boroughs (Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan)."

She said these areas are walkable and do not afford room for a drive-thru, so the sale of alcohol becomes a solid and safe option. Beer and the brand's twisted freeze drinks will be among the offerings to accompany tacos and other food fare.  

"The drink offerings certainly complement the experience and give customers a reason to stay longer, but we want to make sure these Cantinas blend in with the local aesthetic and you feel like you’re in your favorite neighborhood restaurant," Wu said. 

Photo: iStock

Topics: Franchising & Growth

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of Pizzamarketplace.com and QSRweb.com after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

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