Today, Taco Bell has over 170 Canadian restaurants in eight provinces and according to the official Canadian Taco Bell website is “the leading Mexican-inspired [quick-service] chain in the country.”
Glen Bell opened the first Taco Bell restaurant 60 years ago in Downey, California
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Fast food restaurants are about as common as signs on business doors advising the public that masks are mandatory indoors. There is nothing more satisfying than eating fast food to satisfy one’s hunger cravings; especially Mexican food like nachos, burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, enchiladas and tacos.
Speaking of the latter, this year marks 60 years since the first Taco Bell restaurant opened in Downey, California. According to the official Taco Bell website, the food chain was founded by Glen Bell. Before opening Taco Bell, he had owned a burger stand called Bell’s Hamburgers in California. It was built in 1948 near the border of San Bernardino and the city of Colton. In 1954, Bell opened his first taco stand called Taco Tia. Amusingly, the Taco Bell website states after Bell opened the first restaurant in Downey, his customers called what he served them “Tay-Kohs.” Bell later invented the Crunchy Taco “to satisfy the hungry mouths of Southern Californians.”
Taco Bell eventually became exceedingly popular. Taco Bell’s first franchisee restaurant opened in 1964 in Orange County, California. In 1967, the restaurant opened its 100th location in Anaheim, California. Three years later, Taco Bell went public with a total of 325 restaurants. Notably, in 1978, Bell sold 868 Taco Bell restaurants to PepsiCo Inc. and became a PepsiCo shareholder. As britannica.com reports about Taco Bell, “It was this sale that began Taco Bell’s shift from a regional hit to a national sensation.” In 2005, the Crunchwrap Supreme would become Taco Bell’s most successful product inception and immediately was added to the permanent menu. And in 2021, Taco Bell opened its very first restaurant in Malaysia.
Interestingly, Taco Bell opened its first Canadian location in Ontario in 1979. The restaurant in Canada was affiliated with Yum! Brands, Inc. Today, Taco Bell has over 170 Canadian restaurants in eight provinces and according to the official Canadian Taco Bell website is “the leading Mexican-inspired [quick-service] chain in the country. We serve made-to-order and customizable tacos, burritos, and specialties such as the exclusive Doritos® Locos Tacos, Fries Supreme and a lower calorie Fresco Menu.”
Glen Bell passed away in January 2010 at age 86. According to his obituary published in the Los Angeles Times, Bell battled Parkinson’s disease since 1985. Bell was an innovator and a dedicated and passionate entrepreneur. His love for Mexican food would be shared and embraced worldwide. In 2019, the Taco Bell website stated the restaurant giant “…[has served] more than 2 billion customers each year at over 7,000 restaurants worldwide.” Glen Bell’s instincts were correct when he chose to sell tacos to the large masses of hungry consumers. It was a goal he achieved. And it is appropriate that Bell himself said it best in how Taco Bell made a significant impact on the American food-loving public—stating in the 1999 book, Taco Titan: The Glen Bell Story: “We changed the eating habits of an entire nation.” No one is going to dispute that.