Taco Bell Opens Innovative Drive-Thru Store Concept

Taco Bell is redefining drive-thrus with a first of its kind, two-story model that delivers innovative technology and design.
Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
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Taco Bell is redefining drive-thrus with a first of its kind, two-story model that delivers innovative technology and design, like a proprietary vertical lift to transport Taco Bell menu items straight from the kitchen.

Coined "Taco Bell Defy," the restaurant opened its doors and four-lane drive-thru in Brooklyn Park, MI on June 7.

From digital check-in screens for mobile order customers' unique QR codes, to a two-way audio and video technology service for customers to talk to team members on the second floor, Taco Bell Defy boasts features that could show up in future Taco Bell restaurants in the US. In partnership with long-time franchisee Border Foods, the teams are considering potential retrofits that could be made to several of Taco Bell Defy's neighboring restaurants.

"Taco Bell Defy is an incredible innovation for our brand, and one that's meeting our consumer in a really unique way. For decades we've been committed to providing a fast, safe and friendly drive-thru experience; now with our bold goal of creating a two minute or less drive-thru experience for customers of this concept, Taco Bell Defy is the future," said Mike Grams, Taco Bell president and Global COO. "We're thankful for our incredible 36-year partnership with Border Foods and feel like Taco Bell Defy is a culmination of years of success between our teams, along with the expertise of local partners like Vertical Works who helped make this possible."

Taco Bell Defy aims to reduce service times to two minutes or less. To do this, the restaurant model will solve many challenges of traditional drive-thrus. Regardless of how customers order, Taco Bell Defy has four lanes to accommodate them:

  • Pre-orders: Orders via the Taco Bell app will score, skip-the-line service. The Taco Bell App can be downloaded ahead of time by visiting the Apple App Store or Google Play.
  • Delivery Drivers: For those ordering through a third-party delivery partner, drivers will be able to process orders with the goal of providing an even faster delivery time.
  • Traditional Drive-Thru: For those who prefer to drop in, there's one lane dedicated solely for this purpose.

"Taco Bell Defy embodies the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of Minnesota businesses and franchisees," said Lee Engler, co-founder and CEO of Border Foods. "It is a creative, technological solution for a faster, contactless experience for as many Taco Bell fans as possible and is poised to be the future of quick-service dining."

Minneapolis-based Vertical Works Inc. merged innovation, design and manufacturing to concept and build Defy, and in doing so reinvented the drive thru experience. Vertical Works is powered by WORKSHOP and PD Instore.  

"We applied our innovative approach to problem solving to create a brand new way for consumers to access fast food," said Josh Hanson, co-founder of Vertical Works and CEO and founder of WORKSHOP. "We know today's consumer expects a convenient and memorable experience, and the Taco Bell Defy concept delivers on both."

"We were excited to partner with Border Foods and Taco Bell to bring the Taco Bell Defy concept to life," said Mike Strommen, co-founder of Vertical Works and CEO of PD Instore. "The Border Foods team was facing challenges with streamlining the journey from order to meal hand-off, and the Vertical Works team presented a solution to not only address this, but also deliver a more impactful customer experience overall. Taco Bell Defy's unique design combined with innovative technology delivers food to consumers faster and more efficiently."