By on August 25, 2020

While the national response to the pandemic may have ruined countless small businesses and collectively diminished our mental health, state-level lockdowns have also served as an effective political cudgel and permitted Congress to enact trillion-dollar bailouts benefiting some of the world’s wealthiest companies.

Oh, wait — that also seems bad. I meant to say “…renewed the public interest in some of America’s forgotten pastimes.”

Even though baseball doesn’t seem to be performing all that well without fans, apple pie is still broadly appreciated and drive-in theaters appear to be making a miraculous recovery despite spending the last few decades teetering on the precipice of permanent obsolescence. Taco Bell has likewise reevaluated how to reach its customers in the COVID-era, and similarly assumed the automobile might be an important element in its future plans. As a result, it’s revisiting the concept of fast food drive-in restaurants made popular in the mid-20th century and setting up some new ones for the 21st.

Those businesses were made popular thanks to their quick service and a roster of young carhops bringing the food directly to your vehicle. Taco bell is actually bringing back those old- time carhops, whom it calls “Bellhops,” for customers who don’t want to wait in the dual drive-thru lanes. But its main concern seems to be offering the same lickety-split service as it re-prioritizes the automobile in lieu of tables and chairs.

The company says the key to all of this is a tracking app customers can download and use to order their food while en route to the restaurant. By using the GPS embedded into a customer’s phone or automobile, the store can prioritize when to cook the meal to ensure it’s not cold by the time it’s handed through the driver’s side window.

Officially called “Taco Bell Go Mobile,” the restaurants will begin opening in the spring of 2021 and should be less than half the size of a normal Taco Bell. Ignoring the potential privacy risks associated by adding another application to your mobile devices, this seems like a pretty good idea, and the natural evolution of the drive-thru concept — even if it’s technically borrowing from the past.

“With demand for our drive-thru at an all-time high, we know adapting to meet our consumers rapidly changing needs has never been more important,” said Taco Bell President and Global COO Mike Grams in a corporate release. “The Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurant concept is not only an evolved physical footprint, but a completely synchronized digital experience centered around streamlining guest access points. For the first time, our guests will have the ability to choose the pick-up experience that best fits their needs, all while never leaving the comfort of their cars.”

We’ve seen companies dabble with this concept for years with variations of “curbside pickup,” and there are still holdover drive-in restaurants (e.g. Sonic). Still, this is the first time one relying on it as a core business model while adding the GPS aspect. Without the app, these pint-sized restaurants don’t have anything new to offer; it’s likely we’ll see other business catering to cars in a similar manner, unless someone decides the pandemic can’t go on indefinitely. There’s nary a hint of that possibly right now, however.

Granted, this is far less exciting than the resurgence of drive-in theaters, but it represents another example of the general car-friendly shift the country seems to be taking in response to COVID-19. While we can’t predict what will come next, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for drive-in malls.

[Image: iso50/Shutterstock]

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18 Comments on “Taco Bell ‘Goes Mobile’ With Drive-in Style Restaurant for the 21st Century...”

  • avatar

    In the future, all restaurants are Taco Bell.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Now all Taco Bell has to do, is to start serving edible food.

    • 0 avatar

      And, therein lies the rub :

      Many really dislike Taco Bell, me I love it .

      I don’t eat in my car/truck and don’t allow others to although I’ve begun allowing the Foster boys to drink Slurpee’s from the 7-11 in this damned heat .


  • avatar

    In the future, when John Biden becomes president, Fly-in style restaurants will become popular.

  • avatar

    Bring back the .59/.79/.99 value menu and we’ll talk, Taco Bell.

    My wife and I used to quite enjoy Taco Bueno, which was rather hit-and-miss but when it was a hit it was light years better than Taco Bell. Unfortunately every one in my area closed down in December.

    We also have Taco Casa which is a chain of around 100 stores only in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Simple menu, inexpensive, and they don’t skimp on ingredients. It’s everything Taco Bell was back in the 70’s and 80′.

  • avatar

    “The Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurant concept is not only an evolved physical footprint, but a completely synchronized digital experience centered around streamlining guest access points”

    Wow, that’s some of the worst corporatespeak I’ve heard in a long time…

    • 0 avatar

      I enjoy translating corporate speak into English.

      This is what they said:
      “Nobody’s using our $&^#@* dining rooms, so we’re going to rebuild our $&*(#@ restaurants so that we can keep selling our s#!tty food.”

      America’s useless COVID-19 response is the root cause of this. Other developed nations managed to get this $#!t under control, but America is special — so special that we might as well rebuild a bunch of restaurants around the idea that we won’t be able to do what Italy or New Zealand has done. Taco Bell isn’t stupid, and they don’t want to upset half of their customers by admitting this in public — but the business decision is clearly a response to the idea that COVID-19 is going to be governing Americans over the payoff period for this construction.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This is a great idea.

    So many institutions are simply hoping for a quick return to normalcy, so all they’ve done is make minor adjustments to their operations while biting their lip. We’re seeing such reactions with schools, churches, sports, festivals, restaurants, and any large gatherings.

    Taco Bell has realized that the brick-and-mortar overhead isn’t worth it, and they can still generate good revenue by not paying to heat, cool, clean, and furnish large dining areas that could sit empty for years.

  • avatar

    I don’t want an app for every business I go to. This stuff is doable via HTML5.

  • avatar

    RE : Sonic

    The one nearest me was filming a major deal the other day when I drove by .

    I have not been impressed by their food, please bring back the A & W Root Beer stands on the 1950’s .


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