Taco Bell Build Their First Shipping Container Restaurant Blog Cover

Taco Bell Build Their First Shipping Container Restaurant

Posted By: April 20, 2015 In News

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Commercial giants building stores with shipping containers is starting to become a lot more popular. For those of you who have read the blog for a while now, you will remember last year when we announced that Starbucks have built six shipping container stores already!

This week we are excited to announce that Taco Bell has now jumped into the trend and have just finished building their first shipping container restaurant.

Taco Bell Shipping Container Restaurant 3

© curbed.com

The restaurant was built as a prototype at SXSW (South by Southwest), which for those of you who haven’t heard of the event before- it’s a film and music festival based in Austin, Texas.

The Restaurant

The restaurant took an impressive three days to build and is roughly half the size of a traditional Taco Bell. They also used the same shipping container supplier that Starbucks used to build their drive-thru stores.

However Taco Bell’s restaurant looks very different to Starbucks because they decided to keep the container’s original exterior intact. Starbucks used reclaimed wooden paneling to clad the containers exterior with. Whereas Taco Bell decided to keep the shipping containers relatively untouched. They simply re-sprayed the shipping containers matt white and burnt sienna.

Taco Bells Manager of Brand Experience, Katie Gardiner, said: “We started in a place that was exactly like Starbucks with all this wood on the side, it was beautiful, but we lost the coolness”.

You can see from the images that the store is primarily made up of three large 40 foot shipping containers. Inside the first container is the prep-line where you order and collect your food. The second shipping container is used for storage and houses an office for the store manager. The third, and final container, stores all of the cooling equipment.

Taco Bell Shipping Container Restaurant 1

© curbed.com

You may also noticed a few ‘half’ containers scattered around the main restaurant- the first one is used for a bathroom and the second is a freezer.

One of the great benefits of building with shipping containers it that they are a modular structure so you can add and remove containers with ease- hence you can design and build structures extremely quickly.

This modularity means containers can be used in a whole host of contexts as they are so very flexible.  Katie Gardiner, Taco Bell’s Brand Experience Manager, goes on to say that building with shipping containers is advantageous because “depending on the [building] site, you could add containers like Lego”.

For instance, stores in more popular areas could have two prep-lines instead of the one-prep line shown above. This could easily be achieved by adding another shipping container to the restaurant.

Future Plans for Containers

This particular restaurant, built for SXSW, is a prototype that Taco Bell is hoping with help tackle their imminent crisis of scale. Taco Bell has been rapidly growing since 2012 and they currently have 6,000 stores in the US. Over the next 7 years they plan to increase their stores by 33% to a total of 8,000 stores.

Taco Bell Shipping Container Restaurant 2

© curbed.com

This means Taco Bell need to build 2,000 stores over the next 7 years- around 300 stores each year. To do this they need to build without the overheads of traditional buildings, which is why they are turning to shipping containers.

Many of these new restaurants could be built using shipping containers. Brian Niccol, CEO of Taco Bell, stated:

“We think we could do 100 to 200 of these container stores. But it has to be in the right climate and the right location for it to make sense… We’re going to explore dropping this type of asset in different locations, which will ultimately give us the ability to show up in unexpected places for our consumers”.

Niccol goes on to states that this is a move by the company to become more environmentally friendly and that they expect their future traditional restaurants to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

In addition to this shipping container restaurant, Taco Bello is also opening new ‘urban’ restaurants which are much smaller and focus on serving ‘walk-thru’ customers as opposed to traditional sit-down stores.

Its is restaurants like this that is helping to position Taco Bell as a brand for the Millennia’s. In addition to the restaurant the brand has also rolled out a new loyalty program designed to engage fans digitally and help build their digital presence.

Other Notable Shipping Container Restaurants

So now you know nearly all there is to know about the Taco Bell container store what other famous shipping container stores have been built?


Well we have already mentioned one within this article- Starbucks. They have been building drive-thru stores with shipping containers since 2014 and have already built stores in Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Oregon, Kansas City and Colorado!

If you want to know more about Starbuck’s container drive-thru’s read our blog post on it.


Incredibly this subway store hasn’t received too much publicity but believe us when we say that it is truly amazing!

Whilst construction workers were building New York City’s Freedom Tower they had difficulty getting out for lunch because the construction elevator was too slow. The workers only had a 30 minute lunch break and during the end of the construction it would take 45 minutes to get up and down using the elevator.

Subway Shipping Container Store

© inhabitat.com

The project’s contractors hired Subway to build a restaurant which could be hoisted to the same level as the ongoing construction. This meant the construction staff no longer had to waste their lunch breaks on the slow construction elevator.

Nine shipping containers, which have been painted bright yellow, have been used to make the Subway store and they even bake their own fresh bread every morning.

At the peak of its construction Freedom Tower will be 105 floor tall, making Subway the highest restaurant in the world!


Still need your shipping container fix!? Well how about the London based Mexican restaurant Wahaca?

Wahaca Restaurant

© wahaca.co.uk

Wahaca built a huge pop-up restaurant out of eight containers in London overlooking the river Thames. Diners could either order burrito’s to take out or they could dine inside the shipping containers which had huge glass windows fitted allowing customers to look out over the river Thames.

If you wan’t to read more about Wahaca’s restaurant you can see it in 7 Surprising Uses For Shipping Containers!

Blog Cover Image Modified From Mike Mozart

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