It’s easy to dismiss Taco Bell as a wild and wonderful fast food joint made solely for fourth meal, as they marketed those midnight snacks between dinner and breakfast. However, the brand is changing the game and has fully taken advantage of social media in the last decade. Not only are they one of the healthiest fast food joints in the country (surprise!), but they’re also doing some great work in the community.
From promoting holy matrimony to creating jobs, Taco Bell flies under the radar when it comes to respectable fast food locations, but maybe that should change.
1. You Can Get Married at Taco Bell in Las Vegas
Taco Bell’s Las Vegas Cantina location offers a $600 wedding package that includes a ceremony, officiant, a Taco Bell garter and bow tie, a sauce packet wedding bouquet, “just married” T-shirts, Taco Bell champagne flutes, a Cinnabon Delights cake and, of course, a 12-taco feast for the bride and groom.
2. Taco Bell’s Beef is 88 percent beef, 12 percent secret recipe.
In 2011, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Taco Bell alleging the company falsely advertised its products as “beef,” when instead the company used a “meat mixture” that didn’t meet USDA standards.
Taco Bell quickly went on the defensive and published a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times and other papers and online news sources.
The ads begin — in huge letters — “Thank you for suing us. Here’s the truth about our seasoned beef.”
They also say the chain’s beef contains 88 percent USDA-inspected beef; the rest is water, spices and a mixture of oats, starch and other ingredients adding to the “quality of its product.”
3. A handful of ‘Cantina’ locations serve alcohol.
Taco Bell operates a few upscale Cantina locations in a handful of cities around the country.
If you’re lucky enough to live in Chicago, San Francisco, Austin or Las Vegas, you can order beer, wine, sangria and boozy “Twisted Freeze” slushies in flavors like margarita, cola, pina colada, lemonade, orange, Mountain Dew Baja Blast, cherry and blue raspberry, served with a shot of liquor.
4. The company made an ill-fated foray into upscale dining.
In 2014, the company spun off a new, “upscale” eatery, U.S. Taco Co., in an effort to cater to foodies with gourmet tacos, french fries, shakes and more.
The flagship Huntington Beach, California location, beset by quality and price issues and no liquor license, languished for just one year before shuttering. The Cantina seems to make up for this, though.
5. Taco Bell was the first chain to hire women as managers.
Growing up working alongside his aunt Mary in her Washington bakery, founder Glen Bell realized very young the value of working with women.
Years later, as he was building his empire, Bell realized there weren’t enough managers to go around — and that all the managers were men.
According to John Gorman, the company’s first director of operations, Taco Bell was the first chain to hire on talented women to run its stores.
6. A Kansas football player got stuck in a Taco Bell drive-thru window.
In 2000, former University of Kansas football player Cordell Dion Rayford, then 25, was arrested after a late-night altercation with staff at a local Taco Bell restaurant.
Rayford became irate when his order was short a chalupa; to remedy the situation, Rayford parked his car and began verbally assaulting the three female employees as he attempted to climb through the drive-thru window.
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive end became lodged in the window, where he remained until police arrived. Police also found an open container of alcohol in Rayford’s vehicle.
7. The Doritos Loco Taco created 15,000 jobs…
In 2012, following the success of its new Doritos Loco Tacos, Taco Bell claimed the item’s popularity allowed the company to add 15,000 new employees to its books.
That same years, the Doritos Loco Taco was selling an easy million units per day.
8. … and took two years and 40 different recipes to perfect.
For a detailed account of the difficulties the Taco Bell team faced to create the DLT we now know and love, here’s a quick breakdown.
Fast Company dove into the world of the Doritos Locos Tacos and found that it all began with the idea to “reinvent the crunchy taco” to coincide with Taco Bell’s 50th anniversary. That’s when the idea began, and 30 different concepts were considered.
Frito-Lay, maker of Doritos, latched onto the idea of a Doritos-like taco shell with Taco Bell ingredients. It was a hand-drawn concept with no information … but it was the right idea. The rest is history.
9. Taco Bell ‘bought’ the Liberty Bell.
Ever the innovative marketers, Taco Bell launched a full-page print ad announcing its purchase of the famed Liberty Bell.
The ad appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, USA Today and a handful of other newspapers on April 1, 1996 — April Fools’ Day.
10. The company once wagered a free taco for everyone in the country — if a chunk of space station hit its target.
In 2001, the Russian Space Station MIR was de-orbited and aimed to crash land somewhere in the southern Pacific Ocean. Taco Bell’s marketing team anchored a 144-square-meter target (decorated with a bullseye and the words “Free Taco Here!”) about 15 kilometers off the coast of Australia — a few thousand kilometers west of the expected landing area.
If any part of it hit, the company promised a free taco for every man, woman and child in the U.S. The space station, as you may have guessed, missed its target by a long shot.