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08/12/2021

Taco Bell preps new ‘Defy’ frictionless drive-thru concept for ‘22

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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A quick-service Mexican food chain will pilot a store model that offers enhanced drive-thru service for customers who order via mobile app or third-party delivery platform.

Taco Bell will break ground on its new “Taco Bell Defy” store model at a franchised location in Brooklyn Park, Minn. in August 2021. With plans to open its doors to the public by summer 2022, the 3,000-sq.-ft., two-story model was developed in partnership with Minneapolis-based Vertical Works Inc., a design company specializing in verticals including quick-serve restaurants.

In 2020, Border Foods, one of the largest, privately-held Taco Bell franchisees in the U.S., enlisted Vertical Works Inc. to help create the Taco Bell Defy design. Taco Bell Defy features four drive-thru lanes, three of which are dedicated to mobile or delivery order pickups. 

These three lanes will supplement one traditional lane and provide fast, skip-the-line service for customers who order via the Taco Bell app and third-party delivery services. The Defy concept will also feature digital check-in screens that allow mobile order customers to scan in their order via a unique QR code, then pull forward to pick up food which will be delivered seamlessly and contactlessly via a proprietary lift system.

In addition, two-way audio and video technology will let customers interact directly with store associates in real time. In August 2020, Taco Bell began upgrading its in-store digital and drive-thru experience by launching the Go Mobile framework, which enhances the digital and drive-thru experience for customers. Go Mobile includes features such as dual drive-thrus with a dedicated mobile pickup lane, smart kitchen technology, mobile pickup shelves, kiosk ordering, and a faster “bellhop” experience. To date, there are 13 Go Mobile restaurants built and another 85 in the pipeline, with Defy being the latest concept under this category. 

“In 2015, we created the Taco Bell Cantina concept with an open kitchen environment in urban markets. In 2020, we introduced the Go Mobile concept much earlier than anticipated with the help of quick collaboration with franchisees just like Border Foods,” said Mike Grams, Taco Bell president and global COO. “Partnering with our franchisees to test new concepts is a huge unlock of learning for us. What we learn from the test of this new Defy concept may help shape future Taco Bell restaurants.”

“This new, innovative concept breaking ground in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, will improve a major aspect of the consumer experience: drive-thru speed,” said Aaron Engler, president of Border Foods. “We’re partnering with Taco Bell and the best and brightest in technology and design to create what will very likely be the future of quick-service restaurants.” 

With an existing 35-year partnership, Taco Bell and Border Foods will partner on their 230th restaurant and 82nd new restaurant build.