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#4 on the Franchise 500: Why Taco Bell Has Its Sights Set On Your City

The #4 company on our Franchise 500 list knows that to grow its customer base, it must go where customers are: metropolitan communities.

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This story appears in the January 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Started : 1964   
Total units: 6,999   
Cost to open: $525.1K to $2.6M

Courtesy of Taco Bell

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 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 , 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.” 

Related: 20 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Taco Bell

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 , 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.

Related: 5 Steps You Need to Take Before You Buy a Franchise

To see our complete Franchisee 500 rankings, please click here, or view more stories here.

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