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If you've read my articles about restaurant chains that no longer exist, or restaurants that are about to go extinct, you'd know I enjoy writing about fast food. It's an interesting topic, from both a food and social standpoint.
I decided to start writing about fast food and restaurant chains again, simply because I love talking about how they create unique slices of Americana. So, why not write about one of my favorite fast food dives to go to?
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love me some Nachos BellGrande—often to the chagrin of my waistline. Yep, this time around, I'm going to school you on things you didn't know about Taco Bell.
Fuck, I love Taco Bell. Here's some cool trivia you didn't know about my favorite fast food restaurant.
Taco Bell's founding moments were actually quite similar to McDonald's.
Taco Bell was started up in San Bernadino—the same town as the first McDonald's. The founder, Glen Bell, was a hot dog stand owner at the time, and while working at his first restaurant, noticed a very long line of customers standing outside a new Mexican restaurant.
An idea was made, and he reached out to the owners. The owners knew how to make hard shell tacos, and at the time, that was actually quite rare. He found out the recipe and quickly opened up the first Taco Bell in Downey, California by 1962.
Within five years, they had 100 restaurants. It was a very popular chain. By 1976, Pepsi Co actually bought them out!
In the original store, all the items on the menu were 19 cents.
That means that dinner was definitely budget friendly. The OG menu involved tacos, tostadas, and believe it or not, burgers. People didn't really know how to pronounce the food names either, which meant that most customers ended up pronouncing them "tay-cos."
The Taco Bell chihuahua had a pretty interesting life.
We all remember the Taco Bell chihuahua commercials that were somewhat racist but had a cute talking chihuahua saying, "Yo quiero Taco Bell."
The commercials were a hit with audiences and remain one of the most successful campaigns the franchise ever had. The commercial spree ended after people got annoyed at the racial stereotypes the dog portrayed.
Most of this is already common knowledge. What you might not know is that the dog in the commercial is a female named Gidget. After her stint as the "Taco Bell dog," she ended up getting a role in Legally Blonde 2 as Elle's pet. She also starred in a number of Geico commercials, too!
Gidget actually lived like a star. She flew first class, opened up the New York Stock Exchange, and even had appearances at Madison Square Garden. She lived till the ripe old age of 15.
Taco Bell was surprisingly progressive in its hiring practices.
Prior to Taco Bell, if you wanted to work as a manager in a fast food restaurant, you'd have to be male. That's just how it was. Taco Bell was different and was the first restaurant chain to hire women into managerial roles.
Taco Bell's beef isn't really totally beef.
In recent years, a lawsuit pinned Taco Bell as a fast food restaurant that had beef that was only 35 percent beef. The lawsuit quickly got ugly and turned into a PR nightmare. When courts took a look at Taco Bell's beef, they found that it wasn't 100 percent beef.
Rather, it's 88 percent beef and 12 percent "other." Multiple other lawsuits exist, and while the company clapped back with commercials, it never fully was able to overcome the "fake beef" issue. That's why you still see YouTubers discussing Taco Bell meat after all these years.
The first Taco Bell logo was totally cringey and racist—and the radio ads weren't much better.
It wasn't always a bell, you know! At one point, it was a man who had a giant bell-like sombrero, sleeping on top of a giant bell. To make sure people knew that it was a sleeping Mexican, they also added (wince) statues of the dude sleeping near the first couple of stores.
The first bunch of radio ads weren't much better, and involved a person with a really thick Chicano accent telling people to think of "bell" when they think "tacos." Oof.
By the 1970s, the executives in charge of advertising realized that they were being jackasses and changed the logo to a bell and got rid of (most) of the racist stereotypes that they had in the advertising campaign.
Taco Bell once pranked the nation by claiming to purchase the Liberty Bell—and it backfired.
In a ridiculously crazy PR stunt, Taco Bell once sent out ads claiming that they had bought the Liberty Bell. In 1996, the restaurant joked around that they had helped "with the national debt" by buying the famous monument in a bunch of newspaper ads.
Unfortunately, it didn't go over too well. Hundreds of protests surfaced around the incident, people called the move "in poor taste," and Taco Bell ended up panicking. The restaurant ended up paying $50,000 to charity as a mea culpa, but it still stung for a while.
Mexico doesn't like Taco Bell. At all.
While Taco Bell is well-enjoyed stateside, the same cannot be said south of the border. There have been multiple attempts to enter the Mexican market, both of which have ended up very poorly for the chain.
The first time around was in 1992, and the move was highly publicized with several Taco Bell franchises opening up throughout Mexico City. Locals hated it so much, all the restaurants closed within two years and Mexicans joked about how un-Mexican the menu was.
The second time was in 2007, and this time around, the Bell decided to add french fries to "Americanize" the menu. They did this in hopes that calling Taco Bell "American food" would help. It didn't and the chain died out again in 2010.
Baja Blast was actually made to go well with Taco Bell.
Did you ever notice how every Taco Bell has this unusually obscure flavor of Mountain Dew? There's a reason for that. The chain actually created Baja Blast as a specially tailored food to go well with Taco Bell.
The actual description of Baja Blast says it all: "DEW with a blast of Natural and Artificial tropical lime flavor."
The Doritos Loco Taco was brutal to engineer.
All of us Taco Bell fans have, at one point or another, tried a Doritos Loco Taco. We should be really thankful for Taco Bell making this invention, because word has it that it was pretty terrible to engineer.
Dorito chips and taco shells are two totally different consistencies. It took two years and over 40 different taste tests before the taco was actually ready to hit the market. Steve Gomez, a food innovation expert at Taco Bell, said, "We had teams of engineers working day and night to get the seasoner working."
That being said, the hard work really did well for the company. Over 500 million of the original tacos were sold!