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04/13/2021

Taco Bell opens its first digital-only U.S. store in New York City

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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You can get anything you want at the newest Taco Bell restaurant – except for traditional ordering.

The quick-serve chain is opening the doors to its first digital-only U.S. location in the heart of New York’s Times Square. Located in the historic Paramount Building, the restaurant is based on Taco Bell’s urban-oriented Cantina format, which has a smaller footprint and a more modern, upscale environment with such elements as an open kitchen and a menu that includes alcoholic drinks. 

According to Taco Bell, the Times Square location is designed to simplify and modernize the consumer experience, optimizing and redeploying the role of store employees from manually taking orders toward higher-level customer service activities.

Customers at the Times Square site have two options for ordering food and beverages (both non-alcoholic and alcoholic are available). They can use one of 10 self-service digital menu kiosks (which replace traditional analog menu boards) or ordering ahead via e-commerce site or mobile app. 

In addition, customers can purchase souvenir Taco Bell merchandise at self-service kiosks  

A separate double-door entrance allows order-ahead customers to skip the traditional restaurant experience entirely and head directly to the pick-up area where they can enter their order number on a touchscreen and grab their meal from a designated cubby. The dedicated side entrance incorporates the original golden entrance of the Paramount Building.

The opening of the Times Square site comes as Taco Bell has been experimenting with digital store formats. In August 2020, the company unveiled its new "Taco Bell Go Mobile" concept, designed to enhance the digital and drive-thru experience for customers. Go Mobile stores include priority drive-thru lanes for mobile orders, smart kitchen technology that is integrated with the brand’s app, contactless curbside pick-up for customers, and tablet ordering in drive-thrus.

The Times Square location joins nearly 60 Taco Bell restaurants and 20-plus Cantinas already operating across New York’s boroughs and 200-plus in the larger New York metropolitan area. Taco Bell plans to operate 10,000 restaurants and become a $20 billion brand within this decade. The company plans to build 25 new restaurants in the New York region during 2021, which accounts for roughly 10% of Taco Bell’s overall development mix.