Taco Bell is reimagining drive-thru with an app-based vertical ‘food tube’

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Taco Bell is trying to redefine fast food with its new restaurant Defy, an app-driven four-way drive-thru in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

The two-story restaurant, opened in partnership with Border Foods(Opens in a new window), is designed to be more mobile and delivery friendly. It uses a vertical “food tube” to deliver meals from the kitchen on the top floor to customers on the ground floor.

Defy offers digital check-in screens for mobile orders and two-way audio/video service for restaurant customers. It aims to reduce service times to two minutes or less.

Customers collect their meals from the “food tube”.

The restaurant’s four lanes (compared to one or two at most locations) are designed to accommodate mobile pre-orders and third-party delivery services such as GrubHub, UberEats, and DoorDash; a single lane is reserved for traditional drive-thru customers who wish to order from their car.

It’s unclear if other Defy sites will open elsewhere; a company press release(Opens in a new window) suggested that “many features…could appear in future Taco Bell restaurants in the United States”. Fast food chain and franchise owner Border Foods, meanwhile, is considering “potential renovations” of several restaurants neighboring the Brooklyn Park location.

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The pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the joy of food delivery, spurring Wendy’s plan to open 700 “ghost kitchens” – focused entirely on online ordering – across North America and the UK. Chipotle, meanwhile, launched in December(Opens in a new window) a “Digital Kitchen” in Ohio, which accepts online orders exclusively and features a “Chopotlane”, an outdoor seating area and a walk-in window.

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