Brand Experience Brief: Taco Bell Cantina

Now you can get a beer with your burrito at Taco Bell!  Check out the new Taco Bell Cantina in this video audit and analysis of the brand experience.

DLYohn Brand Experience Brief: Taco Bell Cantina from Denise Lee Yohn on Vimeo.

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brand experience brief: taco bell cantina

Now you can get a beer with your burrito at Taco Bell!  The company has just opened Taco Bell Cantina in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood and I’m here to give you a look at it.

Taco Bell Cantina is a variation on the core brand concept that’s targeted to urban consumers and that variation starts with the booze.  It serves beer, wine, and sangria, and offers the option to add rum, vodka, or tequila to any of its fountain beverages or “Twisted Freezes,” which are Slurpee-like frozen concoctions.  A tequila Cantina Margarita is priced at $7.19, so this is clearly not a value concept.

The food also makes it clear this isn’t your usual Taco Bell.  It does offer the tacos, burritos, and Crunchwraps  standard at other locations, but the menu also includes appetizer-like items to share like Mini Quesadilla Nachos and a $5 Rolled Taco Platter.

The employees, decked out in cool baseball caps and t-shirts, were very friendly and engaging — let’s hope that lasts beyond the first few weeks after opening and after party-goers with the munchies stumble in.

An open kitchen, digital TV screens, and cool neon lighting made the store seem more like a fast-casual restaurant, as did the exposed brick, a mod mural, and cool furniture.

The restaurant was clearly branded with the name Taco Bell, with the word Cantina only visible on the exterior window, so unlike other new concepts from fast food restaurants, the concept isn’t hiding its original brand tie.  But a Dos Equis neon sign hangs visibly in the front window and you can’t miss the large Cold Beer on Tap sign and liquor bottles when you enter the store, so it’s clear it’s trying to use alcohol as a key differentiator.  This could be a problem — the company met with resistance from local governments and the communities when it tested its U.S. Taco concept in Orange County and when it opened its second Cantina location in San Francisco last week.

One other note about the San Francisco location:  it includes a “mobile pickup window”  for customers who order with the brand’s mobile app.  This feature is likely to be offered at other Taco Bell locations, since the app which has been already quite popular, was just re-launched with the URL ta.co.

Actually we’ll probably see other features from the Cantina concept rolled out to traditional Taco Bell units.  And that’s raises the key question:  Is Taco Bell Cantina a testing ground for what all Taco Bells might eventually become, or will it remain a separate concept only for certain locations?  Either way, the company has clearly put a priority on wooing Millennial customers with more and more innovations so we should keep watch for how things develop.

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