Taco Bell's Futuristic Drive-Thru Restaurant Uses Tiny Elevators

What would the drive-thru of the future look like? Maybe it would have a second level to accept orders from flying cars? Okay, we're not there yet, but Taco Bell's brand new drive-thru-focused location — which was announced in August and opens tomorrow in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota — is two-stories tall, allowing the chain to lower orders down from the kitchen to your car.

"Taco Bell Defy," as the new concept is called, is designed to fit customers' modern ordering habits — and in turn, aims to reduce service times for drive-thru orders to under two minutes. Beyond being multi-level, this new location's primary feature is four drive-thru lanes, three of which are dedicated to pickup orders, dropped to cars via a cylindrical "proprietary vertical lift."

To create these lifts, Taco Bell and franchise owner Border Foods teamed up with the self-described "disruptive solutions consultancy" Vertical Works which dreamed up these fast food elevators not only as a way to speed up service, but also to set Taco Bell apart from other fast food brands. "The Border Foods team was facing challenges with streamlining the journey from order to meal hand-off, and the Vertical Works team presented a solution to not only address this, but also deliver a more impactful customer experience overall," explained Vertical Works co-founder Mike Strommen.

"We know today's consumer expects a convenient and memorable experience, and the Taco Bell Defy concept delivers on both," fellow co-founder Josh Hanson added.

Beyond its futuristic food lifts, this Taco Bell Defy location comes with other modern bells and whistles, including digital screens where mobile customers can check-in with QR codes and two-way audio and video technology where they can communicate with the Taco Bell staff above them on the second floor. These mobile-centric lanes should significantly speed up orders being handled by delivery drivers, as well.

And despite these modern amenities, one of the four drive-thru lanes remains true to traditional drive-thrus where orders are handled by a real person.

Still, Defy would seem to be where Taco Bell drive-thrus are headed. The chains said they are already looking into potential retrofits for other nearby locations.

"Taco Bell Defy is an incredible innovation for our brand, and one that's meeting our consumer in a really unique way," Mike Grams, Taco Bell's president and global COO, stated. "With our bold goal of creating a two minute or less drive-thru experience for customers of this concept, Taco Bell Defy is the future."

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