Taco Bell announced Thursday that it’s reached an agreement with franchisees to fund new technology initiatives, including self-serve kiosks, improved back-of-house systems, expanded delivery, and more.
“Our fantastic relationship with our franchisees and our growth mindset have enabled us to create an aggressive plan to make Taco Bell an ‘All Access’ brand,” said Brian Niccol, CEO of Taco Bell Corp, in a statement. “We always aim to stay relevant with changing consumer tastes and trends, whether that be creating innovative menu items or offering the latest technology that connects customers to our brand when they want it, where they want it.”
Taco Bell said the initiative, which it’s calling “All Access," will provide “both customers and team members with frictionless digital experiences” in 2018 and beyond. It invests in expanding and improving customer-facing digital efforts that will enhance customers access to the brand. Included in this push: expanded delivery and group ordering. Taco Bell also said it plans to prioritize and invest in restaurant technology, including self-serve kiosks and faster networks. The brand didn’t provide any further details at this time. Taco Bell currently works with DoorDash to offer delivery from more than 1,000 restaurants across 50 markets.
Taco Bell was at the forefront of mobile ordering. In October 2014, it unveiled what it said was the quick-service industry’s first mobile ordering and payment app. It launched nationwide for both drive-thru and dining-room orders.
Delivery has been a major initiative for several leading quick-service brands this past year. McDonald’s set a target for thousands of restaurants with UberEATS over the summer. Wendy’s announced December 1 that it was partnering with DoorDash to bring delivery to 48 markets nationwide.
McDonald’s has also been a proponent of the self-serve kiosk movement with its “Experience of the Future” design. McDonald’s planned to reimage about 650 restaurants in 2017 to the design and said it intends to update most of its free-standing U.S. locations by the end of 2020.
Kiosks are also part of Subway’s new Fresh Forward design. Subway began by testing the kiosks in 50 restaurants as the stand-alone technology prepared for larger saturation.
Taco Bell has been on a roll financially in recent quarters. The Yum! Brands chain reported worldwide system sales growth of 6 percent in the third quarter versus the prior-year period. Yum! opened 70 Taco Bells in the quarter to bring its total count to 6,738. In the third quarter, the company debuted 15 new international units. Operating margin increased 3.5 percent points driven by refranchising and same-store sales growth partially offset by food and labor inflation.
Same-store sales growth is up 5 percent year-to-date so far for Taco Bell. That’s a healthy boost from the 1 percent gain it reported in 2016.