Every non-hotel brand thinks it is a hospitality company. However, as popular and successful a run as Taco Bell has enjoyed in recent years, it does not have the level of expertise to run a hotel over the long haul on its own.
Here’s some interesting news: Taco Bell strongly considers itself a hospitality company.
The Irvine, Calif.-based restaurant chain, which began taking reservations for it’s new pop-up hotel, The Bell Hotel & Resort on Thursday, will offer 70 rooms to customers starting at $169 over a four-day period beginning on Aug. 8.
While largely considered a marketing stunt by industry experts, the Yum Brands subsidiary does add to a growing trend of hotel offerings made available for travelers by non-hospitality brands. These include the Equinox and West Elm hotels opening next year, as well as the recently launched TWA Hotel at John. F. Kennedy Airport.
The chain is set to provide guests with new menu options, live performances, and a Taco Bell-themed gift shop, among other offerings, at the converted V Palm Springs Hotel in California, it said in a statement.
“Taco Bell is already in the hospitality business, serving craveable food in over 7,000 restaurants,” said Jennifer Arnoldt, senior director of retail engagement and experience at Taco Bell, in an email. “The Bell Hotel and Resort allows us to celebrate what we do best; from food, to design, and entertainment, which are all rooted in our brand DNA.”
Taco Bell was not willing to share financial goals or costs associated with opening its pop-up hotel, only that the chain opted to use both existing hotel staff and its own employees to run it.
Company history dictates, however, Taco Bell will keep offering pop-up hotels if the demand is there from its “super fans.” The Desert Sun reported all available rooms for the chain’s pop-up hotel sold out in just two minutes last week.
Taco Bell’s Cantina stores, which serve alcohol, as another example were such a hit with its clientele the restaurant opened countless others across the country after launching the concept in San Francisco and Chicago in 2015.
The success of Taco Bell’s new endeavor will depend on the buzz created from its cult following, which has prompted the company to regularly host birthday parties and weddings for customers, and launch a fashion line with retailer Forever 21.
But if the chain is seriously considering opening a permanent hotel, it will likely need to partner with an industry veteran, according to Jason Kaplan, CEO of JK Consulting, a restaurant and hospitality consulting firm.
“It’s a night and day situation when running a restaurant and a hotel,” said Kaplan. “The difference is there are a multitude of areas where you have to make sure people are happy. Yes, a lot of these same elements exist in restaurants, but the stay at a hotel is much longer, leaving more time for issues to arise.”
Travelers are also more irritable when arriving at a hotel, having just deboarded a plane, Kaplan added. That places an onus on staff to ensure Wi-Fi, room temperature, and the overall the check-in experience is to guests liking.
Assuming Taco Bell goes the hotel route in the future, it will join the likes of Hard Rock Café and Hooters as traditional restaurants that made the jump. Fast food rival McDonald’s additionally opened two hotels in Switzerland back in 2001, only to shutter the locations 24 months later, the Washington Post reported.
“We’re focused on The Bell Hotel and Resort for now, but who knows what you’ll see from us in the future,” Arnoldt said.
Photo credit: Taco Bell-themed guest room at its limited time hotel offering in Palm Springs, Calif. Taco Bell