9 Things You Didn't Know About Taco Bell

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 waffle taco, we bet that there are some things you didn't know about this California-based chain.

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 last 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.

The Taco Bell Chihuahua’s Name Was Gidget

"Yo quiero Taco Bell" became a pop culture catchphrase back in the 1990s. It was a line delivered in a series of commercials starring a Chihuahua named Gidget, played by voiceover actor Carlos Alazraqui, who also voiced Rocco in the cartoon Rocco's Modern Life and played Deputy James Garcia on Comedy Central's Reno 911! Gidget lived to the ripe old age of 15, passing away in 2009.

There Are Plenty of Discontinued Products

From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, Taco Bell sold the Bell Beefer, which resembled a sloppy Joe. They've also discontinued the seafood salad, chili cheese burrito, chicken fiesta burrito, and something called the blackjack taco. 

A Boycott by Farm Workers Resulted in Groundbreaking Concessions

Thanks to a boycott led by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in 2005 in support of the Florida tomato pickers in Taco Bell's supply chain, Taco Bell agreed to increase their pay, institute a code of conduct, incentivize suppliers to respect workers' human rights, and give full transparency to their tomato purchases in Florida. It was heralded as a landmark victory for farm workers. 

They Had an Odd Relationship with the Mir Space Station

To coincide with the re-entry of Russia's Mir space station in 2001, the chain towed a huge target into the Pacific Ocean and announced that if it was hit by Mir, everybody in the United States would get a free burrito. Sadly, the station missed. 

They Brought in a Celebrity Chef to Develop Their Cantina Menu

Taco Bell's Cantina Menu, which features black beans, cilantro rice and dressing, and herb-marinated chicken, was developed by chef Lorena Garcia, who owns several restaurants, has appeared on many Spanish-language cooking shows, and was a contestant in the fourth season of Top Chef Masters

They’ve Picked a Breakfast Fight with McDonald’s

In 2014, Taco Bell launched an aggressively unique breakfast menu with items like A.M. Crunchwraps, waffle tacos (since replaced by biscuit taco), breakfast burritos, and Cinnabon delights. Their ad campaign made it clear that they were attacking McDonald's on all fronts, even bringing in guys named Ronald McDonald to vouch for the quality of their offerings. Another campaign called out Egg McMuffins, deeming them old fashioned.

Their Ground Beef Is 88 Percent Beef

In April 2014, the chain launched a page on their website to clear up the controversy surrounding the fact that 12 percent of their ground beef isn't, in fact, beef. They do a pretty good job of explaining their beef, but it still doesn't sound delicious, exactly. The ground beef contains oats to help it stay moist, cellulose and soy lecithin to help water and oil bind, trehalose and maltodextrin for sweetness, potassium chloride as a salt substitute, torula yeast, lactic acid, and citric acid as flavor enhancers, sodium phosphate for texture, caramel and cocoa powder for color, and, interestingly, artificial "black pepper flavor."