Taco Bell: what is it and why do Americans love it?

Published 15th Nov 2017
Updated 12 th Sep 2023

When asked what food trends UK residents could expect in 2017, chef Ben Tish said, “I think we will see London bombarded by taco joints.”

But it isn’t just the English capital that is seeing a surge in popularity of Mexican street food - a number of eateries specialising in the toasted tortilla dish have already popped up in Scotland’s major cities.

And now Glasgow is set to fanfare the arrival of American fast food royalty - Taco Bell are due to open up shop on Sauchiehall Street next month, on 7 December.

The company plan to open more than 10 outlets across Scotland in the next five years, so it’s time to find out exactly what the fuss is all about.

A brief history

After several years of making a living as a hot dog and hamburger vendor in the 1950s, Glen Bell observed the growing popularity of a Mexican restaurant in California.

Bell eventually gained the trust of the restaurant owners, and studied their recipes and methods, before opening up his own taco stand.

Bell’s tacos were a hit.

From there, the Californian set up several restaurants named El Taco before selling them and opening his first Taco Bell in 1962. By 1967, the franchise had opened its 100th shop.

Nineteen years later, Taco Bell made its first moves in the UK, opening an outlet in London.

Since then, several Taco Bells have opened across England, including locations like Manchester, Sheffield and Essex.

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And finally, 55 years after the journey began, Taco Bell are taking their first step north of the border to Scotland.

What’s on the menu?

Taco Bell is very popular in America. (Photo: Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Taco Bell)

Tacos (surprise, surprise), as well as other Mexican favourites like burritos, quesadillas and nachos.

The restaurant’s answer to the Big Mac from McDonald’s and Burger King’s Whopper is the Taco Supreme - a crunchy or soft corn taco shell filled with seasoned beef or Mexican chicken, shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese, sour cream and diced tomatoes.

Three tacos supreme and a large drink will set you back £5.89.

Alongside their main, customers can enjoy all the usual Mexican accompaniments, including salsa, guacamole, nacho cheese, refried beans, and rice.

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Why do Americans love it?

Taco Bell is extremely popular in America, and celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Kanye West and Selena Gomez are all fans of the food chain’s take on Mexican food.

This popularity is partly due to the affordable menu and speedy service, but also down to the restaurant’s association with beloved American pastime, baseball.

During the 2007 World Series, the chain offered free tacos to every American in the event that a player ‘stole a base’ (advancing to a base to which they were not entitled) as part of a promotion known as ‘Steal a base, steal a taco’.

The promotion has returned in recent years, with President Barack Obama expressing his delight in 2016 that Cleveland Indians player Francisco Lindor stole a base to seal free tacos for the whole country.

“And because I’ve been watching the World Series, I am aware that because Francisco Lindor stole second base in Game 1, everybody in America gets a free taco at Taco Bell tomorrow,” said the former President.

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