In true disrupt-and-innovate fashion, Taco Bell rolled out its first mobile ordering and payment app after a social media blackout. The brand’s executives called the release the first innovation in service since the Mexican quick serve adopted the drive thru.

“It’s time for a new service model that’s all about convenience and technology,” said Brian Niccol, president of Taco Bell, during the video announcement that aired online. Niccol highlighted the other ways Taco Bell is exploring integrating technology into the workplace, which includes the use of Google Glass to conduct in-store training, and exploring more service platforms like catering. The smartphone app, available for both the iPhone and Android-powered devices, seems to be the cornerstone of a new era for Taco Bell.

“We’re going to be the first national brand to deliver the mobile experience at the drive thru and the register,” said COO Mike Grams during the streaming announcement. The app allows Taco Bell guests to customize every available menu item in an unprecedented way, executives said. Each item displays a list of included ingredients, which guests can add more of or remove, and add-ons like nacho cheese sauce, pico de gallo, beans, potatoes, bacon, cilantro rice, and more. Prices of base menu items and add-ons are clearly displayed, as are base calorie counts. Users also have the options to “Make it Fresco,” and replace an item’s cheese and sour cream with pico de gallo. Users can also create an account and store favorite orders. The innovative “Rotate to Reorder” feature allows for reordering customized favorites through a quick flick of the wrist.

“We’re also using technology to be more transparent,” Niccol said during the announcement. “The app … allows us to open our kitchen and showcase our food and literally break down the walls between our customers and our food.”

Guests will also be enticed with promotions only found within the app, said Tressie Lieberman, senior director of digital marketing and platforms for Taco Bell, during the video announcement. Prior to the app’s release, Taco Ball initiated a social media blackout, promoting its mobile rollout through the hashtag #OnlyInTheApp. While it’s unclear how long the blackout will continue, Taco Bell did release several promotional videos featuring social media star Shane Dawson.

“I think this will continue to distinguish Taco Bell as a brand to its own,” Niccol said. “Customers are already telling us they love it; they’ve been asking for it. Our team members love it; it sets them up for success.”

By Tamara Omazic

News, Operations, Ordering, Taco Bell