“Yo quiero Taco Bell.”
― Gidget, the “Taco Bell Chihuahua”
Brands are constantly undergoing change. Some of those changes are significant but not profound, such as when Dunkin Donuts became simply Dunkin’ (to emphasize offerings besides donuts). Others are meaningful if not misleading, like Kentucky Fried Chicken’s change to simply KFC (to avoid the negative connotations of the word “fried”). But most are simply gradual and unintentional with little or no impact on the business operations behind the brand.
Just such a change recently occurred in The OC when one of the last remaining “original” Taco Bell restaurants ceased operations and shut down.
On Tuesday, September 7, the Taco Bell restaurant located at 669 S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach served its last taco. The restaurant opened in 1967, just five years after the chain was founded in Downey by Glen Bell, and it was reputed a hangout of Timothy Leary, the psychologist who became famous for advocating psychedelic drugs in the 1960s. Having eaten there numerous times when visiting Laguna Beach, I never knowingly ran into Leary, but it had long been a dependable fixture on Pacific Coast Highway.
Originally called Bell’s Drive-In and opened to serve hot dogs, the chain that became Taco Bell was founded in San Bernardino, California by entrepreneur Glen Bell. While successful, Bell couldn’t help noticing the long lines of customers across the street at a Mexican restaurant called the Mitla Café which became famous among neighbors for its hard-shelled tacos. Bell attempted to reverse-engineer the recipe later learned from the owners themselves how the tacos were made. He took what he had learned and opened his own taco stand in 1951 as Taco-Tia, later changed to El Taco, and eventually became Taco Bell.
The first Taco Bell in 1962 in Downey, California and in 1964, the first franchisee opened, in Torrance, California with the 100th restaurant following in on South Brookhurst in Anaheim n 1967.
The owner of the now defunct Laguna Beach restaurant, Steve Smith, explained that his franchise location lost his lease and so had to shutter. At the moment, there’s been no news about what will replace the Taco Bell, but whatever it is it certainly won’t be the same.
Of course, this isn’t the only intellectual property news this month as several big names have been in the news for their IP battles in the courtroom, including Apple, Epic Games, Hershey’s and even Nirvana, the alt-rock band founded by lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain (who died in 1994).
For details, check out this month’s IP Update.