Taco Bell begins booze sales in Chicago

- Aamer Madhani

Taco Bell is ready to CHICAGO pour you a drink. The official grand opening of the first booze-selling Taco Bell isn’t until Sept. 22, but company officials opened their doors — and liquor cabinet — to customers Tuesday for a “soft opening ” of the fast-food chain’s new location in the city’s Wicker Park neighborho­od.

Taco Bell, which has earned a reputation over the years as a good place to get a bite after a night of drinking, announced plans in June to experiment with selling beer, wine, sangria and spiked frozen drinks at the Chicago location as it looks to gain a foothold in urban markets. A second location that will sell only beer and wine near San Francisco’s AT&T Park is slated to open his month, the company says.

The fast-food chain, owned by Yum Brands, boasts more than 6,000 outlets, mostly in suburban areas. That model has worked well for the company, which gets roughly 70% of its sales from its drive-thru windows.

But the company knows that its Millennial customers increasing­ly are attracted to urban areas, where real estate is pricey. Company officials think that selling a stiffer drink might pad the receipts — the typical Taco Bell receipt is in the $7 range — and in turn help make their urbanizati­on push more doable.

“To put in a drive-thru you need land,” Neil Borkan, the Taco Bell franchisee who will operate the Chicago test location told USA TODAY. “Can you imagine buying an acre of land in a neighborho­od like Wicker Park? You couldn’t afford it. As real estate becomes more and more expensive, this kind of concept makes more sense.”

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