Fathers of Fast Casual: Taco Bell
By Jamie Hooker
During our college years, ramen becomes boring fast. However, thanks to our next father of fast casual, we can have a five-course meal without the five star prices.
The Taco Bell vision began in 1950 when Glen Bell noticed long lines at Mitla Café, the Mexican restaurant across from his own stand, Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs. Bell was always looking to expand his stand from serving only hot dogs, so he peeked inside to see what all the buzz was about. He was instantly hooked and became a frequent customer of Mitla Café, not only to enjoy the tacos, but in hopes of trying to reverse engineer the recipe. After several attempts of trying to get the 4-1-1 on the tacos, the owners allowed him into the kitchen to see how the food was prepared. Soon after this behind the scenes look, Bell opened a new stand by the name of Taco-Tia. Over the next few years, he and a business partner opened four restaurants by the name of El Taco, beginning their entrance into the fast casual world.
Bell sold his share of the El Taco business to his partner and decided to go solo on his next project. Taco Bell was created in 1962 with its first store in Downey, Calif. It didn’t take long for Bell’s vision to become a reality after launching his restaurant, as his company grew into a franchise just two years after its inception. After gaining a reputation for fast, affordable tacos, Taco Bell gained the eyes of some big investors. In 1978, just 16 years after the first Taco Bell was created, PepsiCo became a shareholder, ultimately expanding not only the brand, but Bell’s pockets, too.
Today Taco Bell is the leading fast casual infused Mexican cuisine company in the U.S. with more than 5,600 locations worldwide. Not only is Taco Bell known for their affordable meal options and crazy menu items, but they’ve also accomplished some fun advertising campaigns over the years including: