A hallmark of these concepts is back-of-house technology that eases the lives of employees. Three years ago, Taco Bell rolled out its Touch Kitchen Display System—an innovation giving workers the ability to prioritize orders based on size and complexity, obtain cards explaining how to build the meal, and share orders with other team members. The system will be in most restaurants by the end of 2023. At the same, Taco Bell will introduce a new open kitchen floor plan that should improve employees efficiency.
Taco Bell is on the fast track toward 10,000 U.S. restaurants, and it's doing so through a variety of innovative store designs, from its urban-based Cantinas to digitally focused Go Mobile prototypes. The latest iteration is part of a familiar trend in the quick-service industry—drive-thru and pickup only.
The restaurant, which debuted in El Paso, Texas, in March, features more digital touch points than any other Taco Bell store. It comes with an outdoor pickup window, grab-and-go shelves, dedicated parking for mobile and delivery orders, and no indoor dining area. The latest addition opened in Columbus, Georgia, and elements of this location will be incorporated into future stores.
"Taco Bell is growing for good. Each time a new restaurant opens, we treat it as an opportunity to do better for fans, team members and our franchise partners," Scott Mezvinsky, managing director, North America, said in a statement. "Our secret sauce is our constant innovation paired with our incredible franchisee partnerships, which unlocks our profitable growth and further expansion. From creating new jobs and strengthening our communities to evolving the brand experience our fans have come to love, we're consistently looking to build for a better future."
The Mexican giant also revealed a plan to expand its lineup of Cantinas, known for their urban designs, open kitchen concepts, alcoholic drinks, and cutting-edge technology. This year, multiple locations will come online, including Indianapolis and Los Angeles.
Taco Bell's same-store sales rose 4 percent in the second quarter, and its digital channel increased almost 35 percent year-over-year. Globally, the company opened 63 gross new stores in the second quarter—36 in the U.S. and 27 in international markets across eight countries. Taco Bell finished Q2 with 7,241 domestic and 1,079 international restaurants.
Outside of restaurant designs, Taco Bell noted the growth of its scholarship and mentorship programs that are helping team members pursue their dreams. For instance, Tacala Companies—a franchisee that just opened its 350th store in Auburn, Alabama—has awarded more than $1.4 million in scholarships to 650 employees since 2014. The brand gave one example where an employee received a scholarship five times, which helped her graduated as a licensed practical nurse debt-free.