Taco Bell has earned a very specific reputation for itself over the past few decades. Obviously, everyone knows that it’s not real Mexican food – it’s pretty much the last place you would ever think to go for an authentic burrito. The ground beef is a weird kind of mush, and you generally end up adding packets and packets of hot sauce to whatever you’re getting. You can’t help but wonder how on earth a taco could be as cheap as what they charge for it. Yet still, there’s just something about Taco Bell that has customers coming back time and time again
Perhaps it’s the convenience. Perhaps it’s the endless options – beans or no beans, beef or chicken, cheese or no cheese, fresh or full fat. Perhaps it’s just got the guilty pleasure factor going on. Whatever the reason, Taco Bell is the type of food that most people claim to never, ever eat, yet find themselves with queso all over the place after a late night snack session with a CrunchWrap Supreme.
So, who on earth initially got the idea to create a Mexican fast food chain that was, well, not exactly authentic Mexican cuisine? Where did it all start? Who thought that what tacos really needed was a dusting of Dorito powder? There are so many questions. Let’s just hope that you’re not on an all-carb diet like Regina George, because what is a beefy burrito without beef?
Here are 15 things you might not have known about Taco Bell.
15. Initially, The Menu Was A Lot More General
Nowadays, Taco Bell is all about Americanized Mexican cuisine. They offer tacos, chalupas, burritos, and more along those lines – and even when they get creative with things, like with adding Doritos into the mix, they do it in a Mexican context. However, it wasn’t always that way. Back in the early days of the franchise, before the name was changed to Taco Bell, the fast food spot was named Taco Tia – and in addition to tacos, it offered hot dogs, hamburgers and milkshakes. However, the founder soon found that the tacos were by far the most popular menu item. After all, many other spots were slinging burgers and hot dogs, but it wasn’t as easy to get a fast, quick taco on the go. So, in 1962, the menu decided to play to its strengths and give the people what they were loving, and narrowed its focus to the world of Mexican cuisine.
14. The First Location Had Fire Pits & A Mariachi Band
Most Taco Bell locations today look like any other fast food restaurant, essentially. Sure, there are a few on brand logos and advertisements throughout the space, but other than that, there’s the customary counter, menu board up above, and tables where you can enjoy your meal. It wasn’t always like that, though. The very first Taco Bell location had an entirely different feel. Instead of being a typical fast food restaurant, the founder actually created a sort of outdoor hangout, like a food truck with a bit more of a staged spot to eat. There was a walk-up window to grab your meal, and then you had to enjoy it al fresco. You weren’t just chowing down on chalupas in a parking lot, though – diners could sit around fire pits on a sort of patio section and be serenaded by live mariachi bands as they drizzled hot sauce on their dinner.
13. It Gets Its Name From Its Founder
Unlike restaurants such as McDonald’s, that are clearly named after some type of founder, Taco Bell may seem like it was a name randomly generated. However, it was indeed named after the man who started it all – a California entrepreneur by the name of Glen Bell. Bell was a serial entrepreneur and, before opening the successful chain, owned a mini golf course, a hot dog stand and more. He first got the idea to start his own Mexican joint after noticing that the Mexican restaurant across the street from a drive-in where he worked was always super busy. He learnt their culinary secrets, and soon decided to open up his own Mexican spot. Initially, he named it Taco Tia, and managed to grow it to three locations before opting to sell to a business partner. In 1962, he opened the first of the spot we know today, Taco Bell, and the rest is history – there are too many Taco Bell locations today to count!
12. People Went Crazy Over The Doritos Locos Taco
Let’s face it: when it comes to their fast food, people love things that are a bit more unusual. Sure, a steaming hot container of French fries will always hit the spot, but sometimes you want to try something a little more out of the box. That’s precisely why the Doritos Locos Taco became such a smash hit. The idea of fusing a taco with a flavour-packed chip excited the taste buds of consumers and, when the DLT finally launched, it made approximately $1 million dollars – per day. When you consider how much Taco Bell charges for its fare, you realize that they were selling an absolutely insane amount of Doritos Locos Tacos. There have been other claims made, such as that the humble Doritos Locos Taco gave the franchise a chance to add thousands and thousands of jobs to the company, but at the end of the day, just one thing is for sure – whoever first thought of the idea is probably pretty proud of themselves.
11. They Were The First Fast Food Chain To Hire Female Managers
With the amount of girl bosses running around in every industry lately, breaking the glass ceiling and absolutely slaying it day after day, it can be tough to remember that women haven’t always had such an easy time in the work force. However, things were a little bit easier at Taco Bell than at other fast food franchises back in the day. John Gorman, Taco Bell’s first Director of Operations, found that with the expanding company needed more managers than they knew what to do with, so while other companies kept management a boy’s club, Taco Bell invited female managers to help run the stores as well. Who would have thought that the place where the CrunchWrap Supreme was born was also a place where women were given the chance to rise in the ranks? Quite frankly, we’re surprised that other fast food spots didn’t immediately follow suit – like only men could ever possibly master the art of flipping a hamburger patty?
10. There Are No Taco Bells In Mexico
Taco Bell incorporates a lot of nods to Mexico in its branding, from the sombreros to the Spanish-speaking Chihuahua mascot that starred in commercials for a while. However, despite serving a type of Americanized Mexican cuisine, it has yet to break the Mexican market. And they’ve certainly tried their hardest – the company has tried to introduce Taco Bell to Mexican consumers twice over the years, and both times, it has been a huge failure – even though they’ve admitted it certainly isn’t authentic and explicitly tried to bill it as Americanized Mexican food. Whatever the reason, Mexican diners aren’t as quick to accept it as Taco Bell enthusiasts from other nations are – perhaps because they’re actually experts on what a real, authentic, delicious taco should taste like. While Taco Bell will very likely try to push into the Mexican market a third time at some point – after all, the third time’s the charm – we have a feeling they’ll never see success in Mexico.
9. They Once Put A Target In The Ocean
Okay, let us explain this one, because yes, it sounds really bizarre. All the way back in 2001, when the Mir space station was preparing to land, Taco Bell for some reason thought they’d get in on the space game and opted to put a target in the ocean. They then proceeded to release a statement saying that if the space station managed to land on the target they had placed, then they would give free tacos to every United States citizen. That’s a pretty big promotional offer! Luckily (or perhaps unluckily, depending on what perspective you take on the situation), the space station didn’t hit the Taco target, so Americans had to keep paying for their tacos. However, that’s just another reason people kind of secretly love Taco Bell; they’re just so over the top that it’s hard not to have a fondness for them, no matter how silly you feel about it.
8. They Were The First National Chain To Dump The Kids Menu
It seems like virtually every fast food chain out there has a kids menu. It may not have as iconic items as the adult menu – as of yet, there’s no Baby Big Mac – but they’ll offer a few menu items in cute packaging in tiny versions for the younger customers. Not Taco Bell, though. After reflecting on their desired customer and realizing they were trying to appeal to a different crowd – namely one in its 20s and 30s – they opted to trash the kids menu and focus on appealing to adult taste buds with things like the Doritos Locos Taco. It might not seem that revolutionary – after all, kids can easily just order off the adult menu as well – but they were the first national chain to take that step. It might have potentially alienated certain customers, but that was a risk they were willing to take – and it was a bold move.
7. It Was The Last Surviving Restaurant In Demolition Man
Forget twinkies – in a crazy scenario where life on earth is totally changed, it seems like Taco Bell might be the last food-related spot standing. At least, that’s what the 90s film Demolition Man suggestions. In the classic flick starring Sylvester Stallone, a futuristic world filled with franchises at war yields only one victor – you guessed it, Taco Bell. The Bell reigns supreme in the film and is depicted as an entirely different kind of place, a fine dining spot with valet parking and a crazy dance floor. If you’ve ever dreamed about enjoying your tacos with just a hint more class and sophistication, perhaps serving up your hot sauce in a glass vessel rather than in tearable plastic packets, then you’ve definitely got to check the movie out. Even Taco Bell watched it, apparently, because the pink and purple logo that Taco Bell had in the film actually inspired the real world Taco Bell to make a change to their logo.
6. They’re Quite The Pranksters
A lot of the time, when fast food spots try to make some kind of a joke or comment on some kind of pop culture phenomenon, they kind of miss the mark and it just falls flat, or worse, it offends people. However, Taco Bell was determined to pull off an April Fool’s day prank at all costs. They opted to take out full page ads in six newspapers throughout the country – and these were major newspapers, not just local ones with a circulation of 10,000 or less – that stated they had purchased the Liberty Bell. The ad claimed the fast food joint was going to rename the piece of American history the Taco Liberty Bell to reflect the new owners. Since America has seen some pretty crazy stuff, many readers actually believed the advertisement reflected the truth, and got angry at the idea. It was eventually revealed to be a prank, but still – it has a nice ring to it, no?
5. It Used To Have A Weird Sandwich
Pretty much every fast food joint has a few recipes in their graveyard that just didn’t fit their brand or just missed the mark entirely. For Taco Bell, that recipe was the “Bell Beefer.” Now, anyone who knows a bit about the Bell knows that they initially started out with a more diverse menu, offering hot dogs and burgers in addition to their not famous tacos. However, we’re not talking about regular burgers with this sandwich. The Bell Beefer was, essentially, everything you would put in a taco, but instead placed between buns. The idea is a little bit baffling (they introduced it in the mid 1980s, so we’re just going to go ahead and blame the 80s for that one) and, unsurprisingly, people didn’t really love it. Stick to finding ways to improve your assets, like the new Doritos Locos Taco that is making everyone lose their minds lately.
4. Bell Opened His First Place At Just 23
Many fast food founders end up starting their successful businesses a bit later in life – I mean, just take a look at how old Colonel Sanders was when he finally mastered that spice blend and started slinging Kentucky Fried Chicken to eager consumers. However, Glen Bell got a bit of an earlier start than most. When he was just 23 years old, he started his first restaurant, a drive-in that sold hot dogs. Then, he opened Taco Tia, a spot that sold tacos, burgers, milkshakes and tacos. Then, he sold everything he had to start Taco Bell in 1962, about 10 years later. His journey to the top proves that sometimes it takes awhile to find the right formula, no matter how early you get started or how hard you work. Who would have thought tacos, of all things, would have been the food item that Americans fell in love with at that time?
3. They Have Some Celebrity Fans
Celebrities have endless options when it comes to dining out. Not only can they afford meals in virtually any restaurant in the world, they can usually pass by any waiting list or reservation requirements thanks to their star status. However, celebrities are just like us – sometimes, they want a simple piece of junk food rather than a delicate foie gras dish. Chrissy Teigen, for one, has been vocal about her love of Taco Bell. Even though she’s a known foodie who has her own cookbook and is always crafting exciting new dishes, sometimes, she just wants a big, greasy burrito. We get it. The Bell has another celebrity fan in Anna Kendrick, who in an interview once confessed that Taco Bell was like her dirty secret – something she absolutely adored, but would only ever shame-eat after midnight. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with craving a little Taco Bell after a long day on set.
2. It Used To Be Even Cheaper
There are many fast food joints where, by the time you get your meal combo with all the fixings, you may as well have gotten a meal at a nicer spot because it all adds up. Not Taco Bell. Taco Bell has built a reputation for having countless inexpensive menu items, for being a place where you could go as a broke college student to get a filling meal for a dollar or two. However, if you think it’s cheap now, you won’t believe just how inexpensive Taco Bell cuisine used to be. Back when the fast food spot first opened in the 1960s, all the Mexican-themed menu items, from tacos to burritos to tostadas, were a mere $0.19. That’s right – less than a quarter per delicious item! Sure, things in general were less expensive back then, but still – that’s a pretty amazing price for a food item! Here’s hoping that Taco Bell decides to do a throwback promotion where they offer tacos for that price once again.
1. The Taco Bell Chihuahua Went On To Have A Film Career
If you were a pop culture fan in the late 1990s and early 2000s, chances are you’ll remember Taco Bell’s star – a sassy Chihuahua by the name of Gidget. The dog was featured in countless commercials and print advertisements, usually saying some type of Spanish phrase, the most popular being “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” Everyone loved the dog, the phrase became well known in pop culture, and it remains one of the more memorable campaigns of the past few decades. So, what did the campaign’s star do after Taco Bell no longer had use for his services? Well, move on to bigger and better things! Gidget took a few more gigs in the advertising world, starring in several GEICO commercials, before moving on to the glitz and glam of Hollywood, playing a starring role in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde. Who knew that canine superstar was so versatile?