Industry News | August 15, 2011

Del Taco to Upgrade Stores with New Design, Salsa Bar

The new, modern interior at the Del Taco prototype store.
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Del Taco’s long-time customers are well aware of the quick-service chain’s value, freshness, and food preparation, from its grilled chicken to freshly made beans.

Now, the Lake Forest, California-based restaurant chain is spelling out those attributes as part of the company’s new prototype store designs and updated logo.

The updated stores feature brighter colors, salsa bars, along with short statement signs inside and outside the restaurant that extol the chain’s emphasis on freshness, such “Chicken Grilled Here” and “Beans Slow Cooked Here.”

And right over the main entrance is this statement: “Made to Order Fresh.”

“We’re telling our food story inside the restaurant in a way we’ve never done before,” says John Cappasola, the taco chain’s chief branding officer. “People know us for our value, but we weren’t getting enough credit for the quality and freshness of our food.”

Elements of the new interior and exterior packages began showing up last November, and have been used in some stores in California, Texas, and Utah. But the first Del Taco with the full, updated design package opened last week in McKinney, Texas.

“Our brand has been built into every element of design, from the color palette to the simple language,” Cappasola says. “The reaction has been really great from consumers to having our story come to life” in the new stores.

The new design’s soft, Southwestern colors (yellow, green, orange, and red) are echoed in the updated logo, which is more modern but contains some elements of the original Del Taco logo, including the jagged rays around the sun, which now rises over green hills.

New store designs and logos are “just part of staying relevant in this very competitive environment,” says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant analyst at the NPD Group, a market research company. This is even more important in a challenging economy.

“Keeping fresh, letting customers know you’re being innovative, new menu items—these help drive customers to the restaurant.”

Del Taco, which has more than 525 locations in 17 states, worked with San Francisco-based brand strategy and retail design firm Tesser Inc. to redesign the stores and logo.

Tesser “became immersed in the Del Taco brand,” beginning in 2009, says Tre Musco, the firm’s CEO. The design company joined the restaurant chain in conducting extensive brand strategy work before coming up with four store designs and 20 potential logos. Those were narrowed down to one.

“The cool thing on the design is what consumers thought about it,” Musco says. “It reminds people of fresh ingredients and fresh produce—great quality.” The messages inside the stores remind customers they are getting better menu items.

One of the more interesting aspects of the design’s exterior is a partially curved roof. It “provides an agricultural feel, like a hothouse,” the Tesser official says, and reinforces the concept of freshness.

There are also nods to some fast-casual restaurants, including various seating combinations, which offer both comfort and flexibility, and the salsa bar.

The bar is a natural fit for Del Taco. It has two new house salsas, medium roasted jalapeño and mild roasted tomatillo flavors, and the chain’s three signature sauces, the hot ancho chile Del Inferno, medium jalapeño Del Scorcho, and original mild taco sauce.

Cappasola says the company plans to evaluate and refine the prototype designs for the next three quarters before deciding on a chain-wide rollout.

The new logo will be phased in during the fourth quarter.

By Barney Wolf

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by QSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.