History of Taco Bell
Serving more than 2 billion customers in 5,800 restaurants throughout the U.S., Taco Bell has become the leader in serving Mexican-style food in a quick serve setting.
Taco Bell was created by former Marine Corps soldier Glen Bell, who served in World War II. After the war, Bell came back to the U.S. sure Americans would be ready to return to their ways of leisure. In 1952, he was ready to build a hamburger and hotdog stand in San Bernardino, Calif., but the McDonalds brothers built their first restaurant in the same town first.
Bell loved Mexican takeout food, but was dismayed at how long it took to prepare. He wanted to improve on this. He found a small Mexican neighborhood in which to experiment with his creations. He began with developing a chili dog sauce, which eventually became Taco Bell’s taco sauce.
He also began working on a way to quickly make tacos. Instead of stuffing them first and then frying them as it was done in Mexican takeout restaurants, Bell wanted to fry them and then stuff them. Bell had someone make him a deep fry basket similar to one he had seen used for tortillas. He also had to develop just the right mix of ingredients and proportions.
With sales going well, Bell built three stands between 1954 and 1955. They were located in San Bernardino, Redlands and Riverside. In 1956, Bell sold his share of these restaurants to a partner so he could expand operations.
In 1962, the first Taco Bell was built in Downey, Calif., by Bell. He built eight small, basic restaurants in the Long Beach, Paramount and L.A. areas. These locations are still operating today.
The first Taco Bell franchise was bought in 1964 by a Los Angeles policeman named Kermit Becky. His franchise did so well, upwards of $10,000 per month, that word quickly spread of its success and others sought their own franchises.
In 1964, the company numbered 100 restaurants and went public. In 1975, Bell resigned as chairman of Taco Bell’s board of directors and in 1978 he sold the 868 Taco Bell restaurants to PepsiCo. What started out as a small taco stand eventually earned Bell millions.
Taco Bell continued to be visionary, however. In 1988, the company launched its value initiative, which included lowering the cost of popular menu items and providing free drink refills. In 1991, it created the Express concept, which included kiosks, compact carts and in-line units appearing in airports, gas stations, retail stores, movie theaters, stadiums and schools.
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Over the years, Bell’s dream evolved from chili dogs to today’s ever expanding and changing menu for Taco Bell. There are certain staples, including tacos, burritos, fajitas and wraps using beef, steak or chicken. In 1998, the Gordita was introduced. Border Bowls were added to the menu in 2002. What was expected to be a temporary offering, Crunch Wraps, was so successful it became a full menu item in 2006. A current special is the NBA $5 Buck Box which includes comes with a cheesy Gordita or the volcano taco, a regular taco, a burrito, cinnamon twists and a medium drink.
Coupons can frequently be found on the company’s Web site at www.tacobell.com. A recent promotion was a free fresco taco, but only one million were available and when those sold the promotion was over. However, the company likely will have more to come.
From a small taco stand created by Glen Bell to a worldwide restaurant franchise with sales of nearly $2 billion, Taco Bell continues to push the envelope in promotion and food service.