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Taco Bell Makes a Run for Urban Markets

The quick-serve giant's cantina style restaurants will serve liquor and tapas-style menu items. 

WickerPkTacoBell - Inside Restaruant Full ViewInside the new Wicker Park Taco Bell in Chicago.Quick-serve restaurant chain Taco Bell will introduce a new Cantina-style prototype in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood on Sept. 22, 2015. A second location will open in San Francisco later this month. Taco Bell Cantina restaurants will be the first and only Taco Bell restaurants to serve alcohol.

The San Francisco restaurant will serve beer and wine only, while Wicker Park will serve beer, wine, sangria and twisted Freezes. Cantina restaurants will also feature a new tapas-style menu of shareable appetizers – including nachos and rolled tacos – during designated hours each evening, in addition to the full standard Taco Bell Menu.

The new design simplifies and modernizes the restaurant by dropping the drive-thru, opening the kitchen and using technology to create a new experience. Taco Bell plans to target urban environments with this new design prototype. The chain continues to evaluate expansion plans for additional urban markets as Taco Bell strives to build or remodel around 600 restaurants per year.

"These new urban restaurants are a critical part of our growth strategy in markets where people experience our brand differently," said Brian Niccol, chief executive officer, Taco Bell Corp. "Today's consumers are living in more urban settings and our new restaurants cater to their lifestyle in adapting our traditional restaurant concept to fit their modern needs."

In developing this new design, Taco Bell looked to optimize the customer experience through technology such as digital menu boards, TV monitors and mobile ordering and payment app pick up.

Taco Bell incorporated the local architecture of the neighborhoods each restaurant serves. The Wicker Park restaurant's brick walls and prismatic glass were restored to help preserve the 100-year-old building. The location also features a mural designed by local artist, Revise CMW, which serves as a nod to the neighborhood's history as an artistic hub. The San Francisco restaurant features a patio and mobile pick-up window to cater to the quick pace, tech savvy and vibrant community.