I tried Taco Bell's new two-lane drive-thru, and I think it's the future of fast food

·4 min read
Taco Bell Go Mobile
The front of the restaurant.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
  • Taco Bell is building restaurants with double drive-thru lanes focused on mobile orders.

  • I tested out one of the new concepts in Rochester, New York.

  • As mobile orders become more important to fast food chains, this is what the future will look like.

Taco Bell announced its new Go Mobile restaurants in 2020, which would have smaller footprints than typical locations and focus on mobile orders.

Go Mobile
A Taco Bell in Oklahoma has been converted into a Go Mobile format.Taco Bell

Source: Insider

I visited a location in a suburb of Rochester, New York within a week of its grand opening.

Taco Bell Go Mobile
Taco Bell sign lit up at night.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Everything about the location was designed to be quick and convenient, bucking recent trends in fast food towards slower service.

Taco Bell Go Mobile parking
Parking spots.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Source: Insider

Parking spots near the entrance were marked for customers to pick up mobile orders inside.

Taco Bell Go Mobile parking
Parking spots for mobile orders.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Customers can go inside and pickup orders off a shelf, similar to the model at Chipotle and other fast casual chains.

Taco Bell Go Mobile parking
Parking for mobile orders.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Other spots were reserved for delivery drivers, something many fast food and even casual dining chains have implemented.

Taco Bell Go Mobile reserved delivery parking
Parking for delivery drivers.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Remaining parking spots were used to advertise Taco Bell's app, and try to recruit some new hires.

Taco Bell Go Mobile parking
Parking spots for mobile orders.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

The most distinctive feature of the new Mobile Go format is the double drive-thru, with one traditional line, and one line dedicated just to mobile orders.

Taco Bell Go Mobile pickup line
The mobile lane of the drive-thru.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

More customers used the traditional drive-thru lane during my visit, but both lines had steady traffic.

Taco Bell Go Mobile drive thru
Two drive-thru lanes.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

To test out the new restaurant, I made sure to make a mobile order to get the full experience.

Taco Bell Go Mobile app
Select a location.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

When ordering in the app, you choose how you want to pick up your food. I went with the drive-thru.

Taco Bell Go Mobile app order
The app asks how you'd like to pick up your order.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

With signs and markings on the pavement, it's super clear which lane you're supposed to go to, based on whether you've ordered ahead or not.

Taco Bell Go Mobile pickup lane
One side of the drive-thru is designated for mobile orders.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

The design seems very efficient, with mobile orders going directly to a window to pickup their food after giving the order name at the speaker.

Taco Bell Go Mobile drive thru
Drive-thru.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Customers using the standard drive-thru lane still have access to a standard menu board, and then continue on to a separate window where they pay and get their order.

Taco Bell Go Mobile drive-thru
The new drive-thru.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Just based on my own frequent Taco Bell trips, lines seemed to move much fast here than at my regular location.

Taco Bell Go Mobile drive-thru windows
Drive-thru windows.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

A standard Taco Bell already has two assembly lines, one for drive-thru orders and one for walk-ins. Adding in the mobile focus seemed to keep things moving even more efficiently.

Taco Bell Go Mobile parking
Parking spots at the entrance.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Inside, each table had an advertisement for Taco Bell's app.

Taco Bell Go Mobile
Taco Bell interior.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Though the parking lot was busy, no one seemed to be eating inside, showing that the smaller footprint restaurants might be a smart idea.

Taco Bell Go Mobile grand opening
Grand opening.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

There was also a display table inside looking for new hires, unsurprising in the labor shortage-plagued fast food world.

Taco Bell Go Mobile
The restaurant is hiring.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

There were no bellhops, which were initially announced as part of the plan by Taco Bell last year, though that could be a product of the labor shortage.

Taco Bell Go Mobile grand opening
Signs and banners for the grand opening.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Source: Insider

Otherwise, though, the restaurant matched up with the mockups Taco Bell released when it announced the Go Mobile locations.

Taco Bell Go Mobile Rendering   3
Courtesy of Taco Bell

"With demand for our drive-thru at an all-time high, we know adapting to meet our consumers' rapidly changing needs has never been more important," Taco Bell's vice president and global chief operating officer Mike Grams said at the time of the announcement.

Taco Bell Go Mobile sign
Taco Bell's logo.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Source: Insider

It's been over a year since these Go Mobile restaurants were announced, and drive-thrus have only become more important to Taco Bell and fast food in general.

Taco Bell Go Mobile drive-thru
The two-lane drive-thru.Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

The chain already has plans for a first of its one-of-a-kind, four-lane drive-thru in Minnesota for summer 2022.

Taco Bell Defy
Taco Bell's new concept at Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.Taco Bell

Source: Insider

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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