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New Taco Bell Cantinas revamp 'fast-social' with alcohol, tech and gaming

Shawn M. Carter

Taco Bell is opening two new restaurants, and both of them will serve alcohol.

The restaurant chain announced in a press release that it’s revamping a project that it launched five years ago: an urban Cantina concept with a “fast-social” experience.

The brand will open one location in New York City’s Times Square and another in San Ramon, California, it said, by the end of the fall.

“By tapping into cultural insights, we’ve learned that our customers want to engage with the brand in a way that amplifies their social nature,” Taco Bell’s president and global chief operating officer, Mike Grams, said in the statement. “We are pushing the boundaries of the traditional QSR [quick-service restaurant] dining experience by setting the stage for our ‘fast-social’ restaurants, which introduce dynamic dining rooms and lean into social gatherings.”

The chain wants to place an emphasis on tech, too, saying “fans can expect to experience the most technology-forward Taco Bell to date” in New York, while in California, customers will see a theme around gaming and have the option to play video games while ordering.

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Along with the two new Cantinas, Taco Bell plans to test a conversion of three standard stores into Cantinas in suburban areas and assess their performance, a company spokesperson told FOX Business, saying the “two consumer-driven concepts are among a fleet of new Cantinas that will be introduced around the country in the coming years.”

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While the units do not have drive-thrus, they do have pick-up windows, serve alcoholic beverages and feature open kitchens. They also will offer shareable menu items and communal tables, along with digital ordering kiosks and other tech-friendly amenities.

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To be sure, Taco Bell introduced 30 Cantinas in the United States in 2015, including multiple locations in the Golden State and Big Apple. The goal of the revamp is to expand on that success and for the brand to become a $20 billion franchise with 10,000 restaurants worldwide.

The stock of its parent company, Yum! Brands, is down 6 percent on the year.

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