Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Taco Bell HQ and Test Kitchen Tour

Taco Bell invited me and several other food bloggers to Irvine, CA to tour their headquarters and test kitchen and to discuss their new Volcano menu. They flew us in from as far away as Maryland, Michigan, St. Louis and Texas (that’s me).

Taco Bell HQ

I'll have much more in future posts about the visit and the answers to some questions submitted by you, Fast Food News readers, and Reddit users. In this post, I'll outline our visit and share some photos. More photos are available in this Flickr set.

Most of us arrived on Tuesday afternoon (last week) and they took us out to dinner at Five Feet in Laguna Beach.

On Wednesday morning we walked the 2 blocks from our hotel to Taco Bell's headquarters.

In their main building,

Taco Bell HQ

we saw their company cafeteria (featuring KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell),

Taco Bell cafeteria

and their lobby, (that's a cut-out of founder Glenn Bell in the center)

Taco Bell HQ

with their original menu, logo and mascot:

Taco Bell HQ

Then we went to the building next door to their glass headquarters building to visit their test kitchen (that has the same food and equipment as your local Taco Bell),

Taco Bell test kitchen

and meet their 'food innovators.'

First, we tasted their new "Lava Sauce"

Taco Bell's new Lava Sauce

That is used on their Volcano Taco

Taco Bell Volcano Taco

and their Volcano Burrito, seen here being made in their test kitchen,

Making a Taco Bell Volcano Burrito

and completed:

Taco Bell's Volcano Burrito

I have to confess to loving the Lava Sauce and, at this very moment, craving a Volcano Burrito. They gave us each a Volcano taco and burrito to eat there in the test kitchen... and then we were given a chance to make whatever we wanted in the Taco Bell kitchen. Most of the other bloggers were much more creative. I tried to re-create the Volcano Taco (plus some sour cream), but it looked pretty sad when I was finished:

My creation

Although I'll have much more to share... here's a few tidbits we were told:
  • They'll be a new Volcano menu item coming in August.
  • They test new products all the time at Taco Bell and the employees are sent an e-mail about that day's test inviting them to the test kitchen for a free lunch and feedback on the new product.
  • The original, in-house name for the Crunchwrap was the "Origami Tostado"... you know, because of the folding.
  • This summer's Frutista Freeze flavor will be Pina Colada, with real Pineapple chunks. (We tasted it.)
  • 70% of Taco Bell's business is done in the drive-through.
Here are links to posts about the trip by other bloggers in attendance: Grub Grade, Scott Robert's Web (hot sauces), Epic Portions, Endless Simmer, and Food Beast.


Anonymous said...

Very cool stuff.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good! I rarely eat at Taco Bell, but I might have to start going more often!