Taco Bell Folklore: The Automatic Taco Machine
On the second floor of Taco Bell’s Headquarters, behind a security clearance door, past the test kitchen, down a long hallway, through another security clearance door, in an engineering storage room sits one of the company’s biggest technology innovations. It’s called “The Automatic Taco Machine” and it will never see the light of day – at least, not again.
The year was 1992. Business was good. Tacos were selling like, well, tacos, and the demand was higher than ever. So much so, that the engineering team at Taco Bell Corporate looked for added help from technology to produce the delicious tacos we all know and love. After a year of planning, building and testing, the Automatic Taco Machine was born - capable of making 900 tacos an hour with the flip of a switch.
Starting with the tortilla, the Automatic Taco Machine would take the glorious tortilla on a 10 second journey through the most delicious, automatic assembly line you’ve ever seen. Stopping for seasoned beef, lettuce and cheese along the way, the taco’s journey ended with a perfect wrap as if it were a present.
Several Automatic Taco Machines were tested in Southern California restaurants, but they didn’t last long. Some say it was ahead of its time, others say it lacked something bigger, something it would never have: the human touch.
It’s been almost 25 years since the Automatic Taco Machine wrapped its last taco, but its innovation trail blazed a path for its techy successors. From mobile ordering to digital kiosks, technology in our restaurants continues to help innovate and optimize the experience for our consumers and team members. However, the learnings from the Automatic Taco Machine have never been more clear, technology will only enhance the team member experience, never replace it.
So, for now, it sits alone on the second floor patiently waiting for the inevitable computer takeover.