Taco Bell stores to prioritize cars, GPS track your arrival

Taco Bell's "Go Mobile" stores will know when you arrive and have your order waiting in a dedicated drive-thru lane starting next year.

Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
2 min read
Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurant concept

With a much smaller footprint, Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurants are designed around cars and digital ordering.

Taco Bell

Thanks to wreaking havoc on the global economy, COVID-19 has forced businesses of all types to reevaluate how they reach their customers. With its drive-through business at an all-time high while sit-down orders slump, fast-food restaurant Taco Bell has seen the writing on the wall and working on a new restaurant concept that prioritizes cars and digital orders as opposed to traditional dine-in customers.

Called "Go Mobile," this new Taco Bell restaurant of the future won't look like the one in Demolition Man -- not even the pop-up version the company debuted at Comic-Con back in 2018. Instead, the restaurant not only features double drive-thru lanes, its smart kitchen will use GPS data to track customers who order via its app. Taco Bell employees will be able to know when specific customers arrive, allowing them to prioritize when to make their food, as well as for employees to alert them to the quickest way to pick up their preordered Chalupas and Crunchwrap Supremes to ensure they're still hot.

"The Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurant concept is not only an evolved physical footprint, but a completely synchronized digital experience, centered around streamlining guest access points. For the first time, our guests will have the ability to choose the pick-up experience that best fits their needs, all while never leaving the comfort of their cars," said Taco Bell President, Global COO, Mike Grams, in a statement.

Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurant concept
Enlarge Image
Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurant concept

Taco Bell's secondary rapid-service lane is just for mobile orders. The smart kitchen will know when you've arrived by GPS tracking your app.

Taco Bell

At 1,325 square feet, this new restaurant concept is roughly half the size of most current Taco Bell setups, which average 2,500 square feet. Much of that has to do with shrinking the footprint of the dining room, as more and more customers are opting to go mobile, a trend many restaurants are betting will outlast the coronavirus pandemic.

As far as that second drive-thru lane goes, it'll be reserved for rapid servicing of customers who preorder their food via the Taco Bell app. The other lane will continue to operate as a traditional drive-thru. But that won't be the only way customers can get their burrito fix without leaving their cars: Taco Bell is experimenting with contactless curbside pickup, an option selectable via mobile app. Presumably, this will help minimize wait times for drivers who work for food delivery services like DoorDash, GrubHub and Uber Eats, too.

Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurant overhead rendering

With less space to dine in, Go Mobile restaurants are all about prioritizing mobile customers -- including third-party delivery services like DoorDash.

Taco Bell

In addition, Taco Bell Go Mobile stores will include "tablet ordering in drive-thrus and curbside pickup to be operated by a concierge service of team members, known as Bellhops," the company said in a press release. It's not immediately clear how the Irvine, California-based chain plans to keep these tablet surfaces disinfected during the health crisis.

Not all of these innovations will require a newly built Taco Bell restaurant -- some are already being rolled out to stores nationwide. That said, the first examples of these new-footprint Go Mobile restaurants are due in the first quarter of 2021.