NEW YORK » Taco Bell says it will serve beer, wine and "mixed alcohol freezes" at a new location set to open in Chicago this summer.
The chain, owned by Yum Brands Inc., says the restaurant will have a new design it’s testing in urban markets. It says the layout has already been launched in South Korea, Japan and the United Kingdom.
A rendering of the design shows a row of lime-green stools along a bar that peers into an open kitchen, flanked by an exposed brick wall. The chain says the location "will highlight the work of local artists" to give it a neighborhood feel.
The new layout is the latest sign Taco Bell is working to shed its fast-food image and appeal to millennials, who marketers say prefer places and products that seem less cookie-cutter and more "authentic." Wendy’s, which is also trying to recast itself as a step up from traditional fast-food, has also been pushing a remodeling of restaurants that features more inviting and mixed seating options.
The push to embrace a new image extends to food as well. Last month, Taco Bell announced it would drop artificial flavors and colors from its menu by the end of this year, although co-branded products like the Doritos Locos tacos would be exempt.
Taco Bell says its franchisee in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago will ensure that alcohol is served responsibly at the new location and that a third-party secret shopper service will be hired to monitor alcohol sales. The website Eater had previously reported that management at the Taco Bell location had applied for a liquor license.
Taco Bell says the Wicker Park store will be the first in the U.S. to serve alcohol. It said it already serves alcohol in Japan, South Korea and Spain.
A representative for Taco Bell, Ashley Sioson, declined to provide further details on the upcoming drink options. She said there are no current plans to bring alcohol to other Taco Bell locations in the U.S.