Taco Bell is a fast food staple at this point, as ubiquitous as just about any other chain in the American culinary landscape. But there are a lot of cool and interesting things that you most likely didn’t know about the chain, which was founded in Irvine, Calif. in 1962. Here are six.
It’s Named After the Founder
Taco Bell is named after its founder, Glen Bell, who began his restaurant career by opening a hot dog stand at age 23 in 1946. After opening a larger restaurant in San Bernardino in 1950, he noticed that a Mexican restaurant across the street was commanding lines around the block, so he reverse-engineered their hard-shell taco recipe and in 1952 opened Taco Tia, which eventually morphed into Taco Bell.
They Pioneered Concept Fast Food
The first Taco Bell Express opened in San Francisco in 1991, a concept restaurant with a reduced size and small, inexpensive menu. They were also one of the first chains to co-brand with other chains, including KFC and Pizza Hut. Their short-lived Border Bell concept sold “fresh grill”-style cuisine, and their U.S. Taco Co. concept opened earlier this year selling tacos with more American-focused fillings.
They Were Owned by Pepsi
PepsiCo purchased the company from Glen Bell in 1978, and owned it until it spun off its restaurant division in 1997.
They Were Among the First Affected by the GMO Recall
In 2000, about $50 million worth of Taco Bell-branded shells were recalled from supermarkets due to genetically modified corn content that hadn’t been approved for human consumption. The chain reached a $60 million settlement with the suppliers, who had neglected to separate the GMO and non-GMO corn.
The Taco Bell Chihuahua’s Name was Gidget
“Yo quiero Taco Bell” became a pop culture catchphrase back in the 1990s, a line delivered in a series of commercials by voiceover actor Carlos Alazraqui, who also voiced Rocco in the cartoon Rocco’s Modern Life and played Deputy James Garcia on Comedy Central’s Reno 911! Gidget lived to the ripe old age of 15, passing away in 2009.
They Have Plenty of Discontinued Products
From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, Taco Bell sold the Bell Beefer, which resembled a sloppy Joe. They’ve also discontinued seafood salad, chili cheese burrito, chicken fiesta burrito, and something called a Blackjack taco.