Taco Bell to open first digital-only U.S. location in Times Square – CNBC

Taco Bell’s new Times Square location

Source: Taco Bell

Taco Bell will open its first digital-only U.S. restaurant on Wednesday in New York’s Times Square.

To buy a Crunchwrap Supreme or soft taco, customers will have to place a digital order ahead of their visit or use one of the 10 self-order kiosks inside the restaurant. The kiosks can also be used to buy Taco Bell souvenirs. The location, inside the iconic Paramount Building, also features a separate entrance for mobile and delivery order pick-up from cubbies.

The simplified design is expected to keep employees of the Yum Brands chain from becoming overwhelmed. Times Square is usually one of the city’s busiest tourist hotspots, with an estimated 50 million visitors every year. Darden Restaurants’ Olive Garden restaurant in Times Square is the chain’s busiest, although it has taken a hit during the coronavirus pandemic, like most eateries that rely on tourist traffic.

Other restaurant chains, like Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill, have also been opening digital-only restaurants as their online sales surge. The new design is meant to cut down on square footage and do away with long, winding lines during busy times. Taco Bell opened its first digital-only location last year, in the Wembley section of London.

Taco Bell’s decision to open a digital-only restaurant in the United States follows the success of its Cantina format, which was meant to help it deepen its urban footprint. It is testing the design in suburban markets.

Cantina restaurants are smaller and are more modern and upscale, featuring open kitchens and alcohol on the menu. Taco Bell has already opened more than 20 Cantinas across New York’s five boroughs. The Times Square location includes all of the typical features of a Cantina, except for menu boards.