Taco Bell is a fast food chain that’s worked very hard to differentiate itself from the competition, serving tacos, burritos, and a whole lot of quasi-Tex-Mex foods in a burger-dominated fast food world. But even if no breakfast for you is complete without a biscuit taco, we bet that there are some things you didn’t know about this California-based chain.
The story of Taco Bell begins with a man named Bell: Glen Bell, to be exact, who opened a hot dog stand called Bell’s Drive-In in San Bernardino, California in 1946, at age 23. Four years later he opened a hamburger stand called Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs in a Latino neighborhood in San Bernardino, and noticed that a Mexican restaurant across the street called Mitla Cafe attracted long lines for its hard-shelled tacos.
Over the next two years, Bell dined there frequently, attempting to reverse-engineer the hard-shell taco recipe. Eventually, he became good enough friends with the owners that they showed him how they were made. By early 1952, he had opened up a taco stand of his own, which he dubbed Taco-Tia.
The restaurant took off, and over the next few years Bell bought several more taco stands, including four called El Taco. In 1962, he sold off his existing restaurants and opened the very first Taco Bell in Downey, California, with a franchise plan. Within two years he’d sold his first franchise, and by 1967, 100 Taco Bells were in business. In 1970, the company went public; in 1978, it was purchased by PepsiCo; and today, it’s a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, which was spun off of Pepsi’s fast food division along with KFC and Pizza Hut.
The chain has been a trailblazer over the years, bold enough to do something crazy like turn a Dorito into a taco shell, but they’ve also found themselves in plenty of hot water. Read on to learn nine things you probably didn’t know about Taco Bell.
They Pioneered Concept Fast Food
The first Taco Bell Express, a concept restaurant with a reduced size and a small, inexpensive menu, opened in San Francisco in 1991. Taco Bell was also one of the first chains to co-brand with other chains, including KFC and Pizza Hut. Their short-lived Border Bell concept sold “fresh grill”-style cuisine, and the U.S. Taco Co. concept opened earlier this year to sell tacos with more American-focused fillings.
They Were the First Brand Affected by a GMO Recall
In 2000, about $50 million worth of Taco Bell-branded shells were recalled from supermarkets due to genetically modified corn content that hadn’t been approved for human consumption. The chain reached a $60 million settlement with the suppliers, who had neglected to separate the GMO and non-GMO corn.