Taco Bell is making urban inroads this month, venturing away from its traditional suburban drive-through model in favor of the first alcohol-serving “Cantina” restaurant, set to open next week in downtown Chicago.
The first of the new “Taco Bell Cantina” restaurants will open on Sept. 22 in Chicago’s hip Wicker Park neighborhood. On the menu: wine, beer, sangria, “twisted freezes”—margarita-like frozen blends spiked with rum, tequila, or vodka—and tapas-style group appetizers. A second Cantina location is expected to open near San Francisco’s AT&T Park before the end of September and will serve wine and beer, Reuters reports.
The move to booze comes as part of the chain’s bid to expand the number of restaurants—from 6,000 to 8,000 by 2022—and compete with Chipotle for the business of city-dwelling millennials. Chipotle, a popular destination for quick Tex-Mex, already serves alcohol (usually beer and margaritas) at some 1,000 locations and boasts an open kitchen for transparency, another feature the Cantina restaurants will imitate. Also to feature in the new Cantina restaurants: local touches, such as a mural by Chicago street artists Revise CMW in the Wicker Park location; reclaimed, recycled materials; and more energy-efficient LED lighting—all part of an attempt to answer customers’ calls for “urbanization,” according to Meredith Sandland, Taco Bell’s chief development officer.
“We’re trying to provide restaurants where they work, live and play that can be accessed easily on foot, rather than the drive thru,” Sandland said in Tuesday’s announcement—”on foot” being the operative term, now that margaritas are on the table.
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