Taco Bell has shut down its upscale taco restaurant, U.S. Taco Co., after just one year in operation.
The restaurant in Huntington Beach, California, served its last taco on Thursday, the Orange County Register reports.
Taco Bell was hoping to attract higher-income foodies with the new concept, which served gourmet tacos costing between $US3 and $US10, french fries, and milkshakes.
It was the chain’s first foray into fast-casual dining, which typically offers counter service and better-quality ingredients at a higher price than fast-food. Chipotle and Panera are both considered fast-casual restaurants.
U.S. Taco Co.’s prices were a little too high for some customers, however.
“We paid about $US18 for two of us, and were both hungry within an hour,” one person wrote in a review on Yelp. “Is this place competing with Chipotle? Rubios? I’m not sure. It’s supposed to be Taco Bell’s take on ‘fast casual,’ and while it was fast, and it was casual, I felt like the prices were for some place that should either provide larger portions or offer something…more.”
Customers also complained that the tortillas left a lot to be desired, with one person calling them “fast-food quality.” Another customer compared the roasted chilli queso dip to Velveeta cheese.
Several complained that their tacos were smothered in too much sauce.
“The people are really nice and place is spotless,” one reviewer wrote. But “They need to work on heat or food, quality, better flavour combination & heavy handing of sauce. Also, a lot of the food tastes like frozen and store-bought. Nothing tastes fresh. Sorry I wanted to love this place I did but this was disappointing.”
U.S. Taco Co. also ran into some obstacles getting a liquor licence. The chain had planned served craft beer and wine, as well as beer-spiked milkshakes. But the restaurant was unable to obtain a liquor licence until this summer, according to the Register.
Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol said the concept wasn’t a total failure. He told the Register that Taco Bell may incorporate some concepts from U.S. Taco Co. into its new “Cantina” restaurants, which will offer beer and wine.
“U.S. Taco Co. remains a fantastic concept, and was very successful as a place to experiment and learn,” Niccol told the Register.
The menu offered tacos with an American twist, like these “Winner Winner” tacos, with Southern-style fried chicken breasts topped with gravy, roasted corn, pico de gallo, jalapenos, and cilantro in a flour tortilla.
The average check size was expected to be roughly $US12 with a drink.
Here’s a close-up of the Winner Winner.
This is the roasted chile queso with habanero-dusted “Papas Fritas.”
The “1%er” was served on flatbread with lobster, garlic butter, slaw, roasted poblano crema and cilantro.
The “Not My First Rodeo” taco wasfilled with smoked brisket, molcajete salsa, slaw, pickled onions and cilantro.
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