Taco Bell has its roots in hot dogs.
Glen Bell, a California entrepreneur, started out by opening a hot dog stand in San Bernardino. He noticed the long lines at the taco stand nearby, their hard shell tacos selling out regularly. Bell created his own recipe inspired by his competitor and started to sell it under the name Taco-Tia in 1951.
Bell didn’t slow down. Over the next decade, he expanded to a number of El Taco locations across the state of California. In 1962, he sold all of his current restaurants to his business partner and opened his first Taco Bell. The first franchise of Taco Bell opened two years later, and the business rapidly expanded to one hundred restaurants in 1967.
Taco Bell didn’t stay independent for long. As its brand expanded and the company started selling at high rates, larger corporations started to take notice. In 1978, Glen Bell accepted an offer from PepsiCo to buy Taco Bell.
Yum! Brands was spun off from PepsiCo in 2002, and it incorporated the fast-food style restaurants that the company-owned. These included A&W and Long John Silvers, as well as KFC and Pizza Hut. Taco Bell has been co-branded with each of these stores at various locations. In addition, Yum! Brands owns the series of Taco Bell Express locations, which are smaller versions of the traditional Taco Bell store that are co-branded with other kinds of restaurants.
Advertising has been a strong suit for the Taco Bell chain in the last twenty years. Its unique and timely ad campaigns took Taco Bell from a nationwide company to a cultural touchstone. Elevating the brand to a whole new level, the advertising campaigns for Taco Bell include sponsoring the NBA, music video style advertisements, and catchy slogans like “Yo Quiero Taco Bell.” Innovative and fun campaigns are the hallmark of Taco Bell’s branding and advertising.
Taco Bell even ran an ad campaign that coincided with the re-entry of the Mir Space Station into the atmosphere in 2001. In the case of the space station, Taco Bell towed a target out into the middle of the ocean and promised customers that if any piece of the station hit the target, then every person in the United States would win a free taco. Though the company bought a large insurance policy in case it happened, no piece of the space station hit the target and Americans missed out on their free tacos.
Advertising has also been a tool for Taco Bell to wisely combat controversy. In 2011 when Taco Bell faced a lawsuit that it falsely represented the ratio of beef in its tacos, the company ran a series of ads with the tagline “Thank you for suing us” that educated consumers on the ingredients in its products.
Taco Bell clothing is available at the clothing retailer Forever 21.
There are Taco Bell locations all over the world. Taco Bell entered the Chinese market in 2003 and has had a presence in Russia since the 1990s. There are Taco Bell locations in Oceania, South America, Asia, and North America.
There has been some heavy criticism of the company that it culturally co-ops Mexican food and so is using the Mexican culture to make a profit. These allegations haven’t slowed the company down.
With more than seven thousand locations and almost two billion dollars in annual revenue, Taco Bell is in the top ten biggest fast-food chains in the world.