Taco Bell Launching Gourmet Spin-Off, U.S. Taco Co.

The new restaurant will try to attract the foodie crowd, offering gourmet tacos and shakes spiked with alcohol.
Posted at 10:30 PM, Apr 24, 2014

​Fresh off its wildly popular new breakfast menu, Taco Bell has announced yet another innovation: A completely new restaurant that will have nothing at all to do with Taco Bell.

The bold strategy was revealed last week as the Bell’s parent company Yum Brands showcased a new restaurant called U.S. Taco Co. to food critics and reporters. (Via Facebook / U.S. Taco Co.)

According to Yum executives, U.S. Taco Co. is an attempt to get in on the popular "fast casual" restaurant trend that’s made Panera Bread and Chipotle locations ubiquitous around the country. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Kmf164, proshob)

Kind of following the footsteps of Chipotle, U.S. Taco Co. will serve high quality gourmet tacos, steak fries, spiked shakes in mason jars and would run you upwards of $7. Not exactly the usual 89-cent soft shell deal.

With entreé names that Eater calls “Guy Fieri-esque” — "Winner Winner," for example — brand manager Jeff Jenkins told reporters the new menu will attract "that emerging demographic of edgy foodies looking for a unique dining experience." (Via Los Angeles Times)

The new restaurant, developed in secret and debuting in Huntington Beach, Ca., will also feature an open kitchen called a “Food Theater,” where customers can watch their tacos being made.

It’s not surprising Taco Bell wants a piece of the fast-casual market. According to research firm Technomic, it’s a $31 billion industry that will only keep growing in the next few years.

But forgive Chipotle if it’s not exactly shaking in its boots. Taco Bell has already failed to cultivate a more upscale image with its healthier Cantina Bell menu not amounting to much two years after introduction.

As Vox writes, “Cantina Bell never really worked because of branding dissonance. Taco Bell, for all its delights, is a profoundly silly and downmarket brand.”

But Slate says the new, separate brand is necessary for the restaurant. “There was no way that a chain whose single greatest recent innovation was turning Doritos into taco shells was ever going to successfully pick off somewhat more discerning customers.”

And without a waffle taco in sight, we can only wonder: what in the world will they serve for breakfast? U.S. Taco Co. is set to open this summer.