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Taco Bell's New Locations Will Have Fireplaces and Midcentury Furniture

There are outdoor fireplaces. There’s Etsy-esque geometric rainbow wall art, and reclaimed wood, or maybe wood that hopes to look reclaimed but is actually artificially distressed like 1998 Abercrombie & Fitch jeans. There are funky hanging lamps...
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US
All images courtesy of Taco Bell

What's the real root of the ephemeral pleasure that comes from hitting a Taco Bell (typically, late in the evening) and stuffing one's face with Cheesy Gordita Crunches and Sriracha Quesaritos?

Is it the mastery of culinary engineering that makes their cheese so damn melty, or the naughtiness of eating $14 worth of $2 items that collectively have a week's worth of calories? Or maybe, it conjures teenage memories of bong rips and drive-thrus and 7-Layer Burritos and brings a tear to your nostalgic eye.


But as it is, few would say that Taco Bell is known for its ambiance. Its interpretation of Mexican Pizza, certainly. Its hot sauce packet catchphrases, maybe. But its air of luxury, not so much. Should you forgo the drive-thru window and actually make it inside one of the chain's locations, you're usually greeted by a sea of linoleum tabletops, dingy tile, and maybe some maroon and purple barstools if you're lucky. At older locations, it's often worse.

Taco Bell hopes to change your mind about all that, however. Your friendly neighborhood Taco Bell could no longer be just a Fourthmeal conduit of refried beans and ground beef, but an embodiment of California heritage interior design. At least, that's the idea; as for the execution, see for yourself.


The seating area for the "Modern Explorer." All images courtesy of Taco Bell.

According to Fast Company, Taco Bell is currently testing four new types of interior designs in Southern California, and they're really… well… something.

There are outdoor fireplaces. There's Etsy-esque geometric rainbow wall art, and reclaimed wood, or maybe wood that hopes to look reclaimed but is actually artificially distressed like 1998 Abercrombie & Fitch jeans. There are funky hanging lamps, exposed beams, and chalkboards with the kind of zany, multi-font typography that you'd more typically find at a Brooklyn coffee shop staffed by Madewell-garmented employees who roll their eyes at you if you ask for decaf.


Sidle up to some distressed wood when you order at one of the Heritage locations.

The soda fountain is even nestled into a large wood cabinet that seems to be some sort of statement on customized carpentry. That's not to mention the floral tiles and assortment of Eames-y lounge chairs that look plucked fresh from the antique store (or IKEA). The four test designs are called Modern Explorer, California Sol, Heritage, and Urban Edge. For the most part, they look pretty similar, although California Sol has more of an indoor-outdoor vibe and Urban Edge has a heavier hand on "bright pops of color."


The goal of the project is to redefine Taco Bell's aesthetic to be more "modern" and "unique" as well as to cater to consumers' desire for "localized, customized and personalized experiences that reflect the diversity of their communities," according to Deborah Brand, VP of Development and Design at Taco Bell Corp. "Today, I think the [fast food] industry is beginning to see equal importance put toward the whole experience as we have seen for efficiency and quality for quite some time."


Behold the California Sol.

And in this case, the whole experience includes Wi-Fi, LED lights, and wall art that looks straight outta an Anthropologie catalog. When you're digging into a Crunchwrap Supreme, why not put your feet up on a midcentury side table?

When you think about it, this all seems like a natural progression for a fast-food chain that has been experimenting with a location inside of a shipping container in Austin, and a booze-serving, faux-graffiti'd location in Chicago's Wicker Park.


The Urban Edge design has exposed bulbs hanging from cords.

The new store designs will be tested in Orange County this summer, then spread into new stores and remodels around the US. And there will be plenty of new stores—2,000 new locations, if projections stay on track.

Brand also tells MUNCHIES that Atlanta will likely be the next city to experience a Taco Bell rebirth, but New York, Boston, Ohio, and smaller cities such as Berkeley, Austin and Fayetteville are also on the short list.

And with celebrity clientele like Dolly Parton opting for the drive-thru, maybe Taco Bells around the country were due for an upgrade.