I, like most people I know, have enjoyed eating Taco Bell my entire life. However, it wasn't until the founder, Glen Bell, passed away on January 17th that I realized how it got its name. I think it's the logo that threw me. :)
It doesn't imply that "Bell" is a name, does it?
Here are some other things I've learned about Taco Bell:
- Bell's first business was a hot dog stand, called Bell's Drive-In in San Bernardino.
- Bell sold that stand in 1952, with dreams of starting a different kind of food service business. He originally wanted the next stand to sell hot dogs and hamburgers, but ironically the McDonalds brothers had just opened a place like that in the same town! He decided to change the menu to taco items, since he was dissatisfied with how long it took most taco take-out restaurants to make their meals.
- He ended up opening another hot dog stand on a busy main street, but this time included coney dogs with a unique homemade sauce (which later turned out to be his taco sauce). He spent his time researching taco-making processes, and tried to come up with quicker ways to fry the shells. He also experimented with what to stuff them with, and in what proportions.
- He sold his first taco for 19 cents out of a side window of his hot dog stand. People liked them so much, he opened another stand in Barstow, but this one also served milkshakes (since the ice cream company was willing to finance Bell's stand in return!). To run the Barstow stand, Bell hired a guy named Ed Hackbarth, who later founded a Taco Bell competitor, Del Taco.
- In 1954, Bell opened three stands devoted solely to tacos, called Taco Tia stands. He sold them to his business partner in 1956 to further develop his methods and food in Los Angeles.
- In order to finance his new El Taco stands, he teamed up with four members of the LA Rams who loved his Taco Tias. By 1958, there were plans for opening many more El Taco stands; and some were hits, and others closed within a few months.
- In 1962, Bell decided once again to sell the El Taco stands to his partners and he opened his first Taco Bell in Downey. One Taco Bell rather quickly turned into six all located in that area of California. In 1964, a former LA policeman bought the first franchise, and it became a goldmine. Word got out, and within a few years, there were over 100 Taco Bells.
- Glen Bell owned all of Taco Bell's units until 1978, when he sold all 868 of them to PepsiCo, inc. Now there are over 6000 locations worldwide.
I know I owe Glen Bell a big "thank you" for all of his hard work in pioneering his fast food tacos! Rest in peace, Mr. Bell.
(facts from the Taco Bell official website)