BreakingModern — Taco Bell Cantina opened its doors in Chicago last month. The menu and interior were slightly more upscale than regular customers were accustomed to. But more interesting than anything else, the Chicago location was the first Taco Bell franchise to serve alcohol.
And now the second boozy cantina has opened in (gasp!) San Francisco – arguably the most finicky foodie community in the U.S. Will beer, wine and sangria lure precious Bay Area palates to nibble on tapas-style appetizers and citrus-herb marinated chicken?
Sure, why not? In this age of gourmet food trucks and carnival-inspired comfort food anything is possible. There’s no reason an “upscale” Taco Bell couldn’t attract a customer or two. According to the Los Angeles Times, eight more cantinas are scheduled to open in the near future.
The cantinas are part of Taco Bell’s planned expansion that reflects the “millennial trend of seeking more urban environments to live, work and play.” Before you know it, other fast food places might do the same thing. Pizza Hut, for example, might try to reinvent itself as Pizza Grotto. You never know.
The fast food industry is currently in flux. Customers are demanding healthier food and different eating experiences (and employees are asking for better wages too). We’re living in a different world now. Places like Chipotle and Panera Bread appeal to younger diners who are looking for higher quality grub.
McDonald’s, like Taco Bell, is stepping up. To combat fast food fatigue (and sagging sales), Ronald McDonald and crew have begun serving healthier fare and (for some reason) breakfast all day. The Golden Arches has even launched a clothing line. Everybody needs Big Mac surfer shorts, apparently.
But getting back to Taco Bell: the opening of these new restaurants could possibly boost its brand to compete with casual sit-down places like Chevy’s and Chipotle. The interiors are hip and communal. And the food is a few steps above its infamous 99-cent menu.
Restaurateur Lorena Garcia, a world-famous chef and a contestant on Top Chef Masters, was hired to create a new menu for Taco Bell’s urban eateries. Reviewers seem to agree, Garcia has done a fine job of elevating the food into something (somewhat) respectable. According to the Huffington Post, new dishes add corn, black beans, cilantro and other ingredients to Taco Bell’s well-worn stock. And if you care: the guacamole doesn’t squirt out of a gun anymore.
Traditional fast-food chains are scrambling to reinvent themselves for a new generation. For now, Taco Bell seems to be on the right track — it’s cantina locations in Chicago and San Francisco are bringing in big crowds. No surprise. Tacos, burrito bowls and booze is always a winning combination.
All Screenshots: Eric Searleman