Taco Bell has apparently never heard the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The company’s attempt to revolutionise the drive-thru opened this week as “Taco Bell Defy,” where you can order food in Taco Bell’s mobile app, and then immediately scarf down your five Spicy Potato Soft Tacos in the parking lot.
Taco Bell Defy is the newest Frankenstein’s monster from the company that is hellbent on creating as many different food combinations as possible from the same set of ingredients. According to the company, the new drive-thru concept broke ground last summer and has now finally opened in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota as a two-story building with kitchen operations located above a four-lane drive-thru. Defy is Taco Bell’s move toward an emphasis on mobile app orders to reduce drive-thru times: Customers are encouraged to order on the Taco Bell mobile app and scan their order’s QR code when they arrive at the drive-thru line.
“Taco Bell Defy is an incredible innovation for our brand, and one that’s meeting our consumer in a really unique way,” said Taco Bell President and COO Mike Grams in a press release. “For decades we’ve been committed to providing a fast, safe and friendly drive-thru experience; now with our bold goal of creating a 2 minute or less drive-thru experience for customers of this concept, Taco Bell Defy is the future.”
According to NowThis News, after customers check-in at the drive-thru using their QR code, a cute little elevator will bring their food directly to their car window. It’s sort of like how a bank teller would send you money and checks at the bank drive-thru via tube, but instead it’s a Taco Bell employee sending you a Mexican Pizza and a Baja Blast all without you having to speak to anybody. Defy isn’t fully devoid of humans — Taco Bell says that one of the four lanes will allow customers to order from an actual person instead of a screen.
Taco Bell Defy sounds cool and looks cool, but is it the future? I’m not so sure. Taco Bell’s mission to get people their food faster is admirable, but it’s predicated on assuming that customers are actually invested in the company’s app. Anecdotally, every time I order Taco Bell (which is way more than I care to admit) I use the app, but my friends usually either have no idea it exists or don’t want to use it, and I can see that being the case for most people. If Taco Bell wants Defy to work, its going to have to put more effort into promoting the app, as well as ironing out the inevitable kinks that will come with semi-automated food service.