Taco Bell opens ‘Defy’ restaurant that prioritizes drive-thru orders via app

Today, Taco Bell opened the doors to its new digital-driven, two-story restaurant concept, Taco Bell Defy, in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Taco Bell first told us about Taco Bell Defy back in August 2021. The location uses technology to speed up service, with a “bold goal of creating a 2 minute or less drive-thru experience for customers of this concept,” according to Taco Bell President Mike Grams.

Most of all, the design of the new restaurant is meant to be more mobile order and third-party delivery friendly. It delivers orders from the elevated kitchen area via a vertical lift / “food tube” seen in the video below that brings meals down to ground level — think a drive-thru bank but you get a Chalupa and Baja Blast instead of cash. According to Taco Bell and franchise owner Border Foods, the Defy location “boasts many features that could show up in future Taco Bell restaurants in the US,” and they’re considering retrofits for neighboring restaurants.

Taco Bell Defy does have an option to order through the usual drive-thru speaker or in-store on a kiosk for customers who spontaneously crave a Gordita Crunch or who would rather speak to a human, but that’s not the focus here.

Of the four drive-thru lanes, one is solely a traditional drive-thru. That leaves the other three to prioritize people who order the app so they can check-in, “skip the line,” scan a QR code, pick up their food and be on their way, or for the third-party delivery drivers working for services like Door Dash, GrubHub, or Uber Eats.

Taco Bell is the next fast-food chain on the list of restaurants prioritizing a digital-ordering format. Back in December, Chipotle opened its first ‘digital kitchen’ in Ohio dedicated to fulfilling online orders and orders coming in through its walk-up window, even though, for company executives, the idea of adding Chipotlane drive-thru windows in the first place was “controversial.” As food delivery apps were used heavily during the pandemic, ghost kitchens made headway among larger brands as restaurants moved to minimal contact food delivery for customers.

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