#4 on the Franchise 500: Why Taco Bell Has Its Sights Set On Your City
Started franchising: 1964
Total units: 6,999
Cost to open: $525.1K to $2.6M
There’s plenty of reason to toast Taco Bell -- and not just because the company’s Cantina locations now serve boozy beverages. Taco Bell, which has moved up from #8 on our list last year, is freshly focused on better serving urban markets, planning to open 1,000 new franchise locations across the U.S. by 2022. Some of those units will be its upmarket Cantina concept, while others will be walk-in shops with no drive-through option.
“In a traditional Taco Bell restaurant, the drive-through accounts for about 70 percent of sales,” says Mike Grams, global chief operating officer. “In a city where a majority of customers walk and take public transportation, we had to create a concept that would allow us to be locally relevant.”
The focus on urban markets has hardly distracted from growth elsewhere: Taco Bell added more than 130 U.S. restaurants in 2018, and in November it opened its first London location. International exploration will continue this year with new outposts in Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia.
But better serving its customers means plenty more than simply opening new locations. A newly launched Cravings Value Menu features Taco Bell’s greatest hits at $1 and $5 price points, and a Make It Meatless feature on the website and app allows vegetarian customers to easily replace meat with beans in any item. “In order to reach our growth goals, it’s key that we increase access through our mobile app, kiosks, and delivery; use flexible restaurant formats; and cultivate the Taco Bell culture that consumers want to be part of,” Grams says.