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Taco Bell readies ‘Defy’ frictionless drive-thru opening

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Taco Bell is taking things to new heights — literally. 

Taco Bell opened a new restaurant concept, dubbed “Taco Bell Defy,” in Brooklyn Park, Minn. on Tuesday, June 7. The retailer initially broke ground on the two-story, 3,000-sq.-ft.  location, which has four drive-through lanes and a proprietary vertical lift to transport menu items, last summer. 

In 2020, Border Foods, one of the largest, privately-held Taco Bell franchisees in the U.S., enlisted Minneapolis-based Vertical Works Inc. to help create the the new concept, which has been designed to reimagine the Taco Bell drive-thru experience. Of its four drive-thru lanes, three are dedicated to mobile or delivery order pickups and one to traditional orders. 

The concept also boasts 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 is delivered contactlessly via the proprietary lift system.

In addition, two-way audio and video technology  let customers interact directly with store associates in real time. The concept aims to reduce service times to two minutes or less. Customers who order via the Taco Bell app will obtain skip-the-line service. For those ordering through a third-party delivery partner, drivers will be able to process orders with the goal of providing an even faster delivery time.

Many of the new restaurant's features could show up in future Taco Bell U.S. restaurants.  In the meantime, in partnership with Border Foods, Taco Bell is considering potential retrofits that could be made to several of Taco Bell Defy's neighboring restaurants.

"For decades, we've been committed to providing a fast, safe and friendly drive-thru experience; now with our bold goal of creating a two minute or less drive-thru experience for customers of this concept, Taco Bell Defy is the future," said Mike Grams, Taco Bell president and global COO. "We're thankful for our incredible 36-year partnership with Border Foods and feel like Taco Bell Defy is a culmination of years of success between our teams, along with the expertise of local partners like Vertical Works who helped make this possible."

"Taco Bell Defy embodies the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of Minnesota businesses and franchisees," said Lee Engler, co-founder and CEO of Border Foods. "It is a creative, technological solution for a faster, contactless experience for as many Taco Bell fans as possible and is poised to be the future of quick-service dining."

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. 



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