When Taco Bell launches in New Zealand next year it won't be one of the large-format in-your-face drive-thru stores made famous in the United States.
Russel Creedy, chief executive of Restaurant Brands (the company set to roll out the brand), says the focus will be on fast-casual dining restaurants located in high-foot-traffic areas.
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Creedy told the Herald the company would open two Taco Bell stores in Auckland in the second half of next year and two in Sydney. The other 60-odd will be rolled out by 2024.
Downtown Auckland and Sydney would be ideal first locations, he said.
"We hope to get [the first] open as early as possible but realistically I'd say in the second half of the year, maybe in the third quarter," Creedy said.
Of the planned 60 stores set to open by 2024, one third of those will be in New Zealand and the rest in Australia.
The Taco Bell stores would be similar in style to Restaurant Brand's KFC fast-casual dining restaurant on Auckland's Fort Street, Creedy said.
"The Taco Bell roll-out internationally has been presented quite differently to historical Taco Bell's, primarily in the US, which have been around many, many years," he said.
"International presentation is a bit more like the Fort St design, it incorporates a much more relaxed dining feel. There's already two of those newer-type designs in Brisbane and we'll follow along the lines of what's happening in that market. Colour palettes and feel will be similar, with a bit of a Kiwi feel to it."
The stores will promote dining-in as opposed to takeaway through drive-thru, and will be located in urban and high-density areas, he said.
"The market has shifted a lot from being primarily drive-thru markets to now being quite ready for and in-line with mall-type restaurants," he said.
"We're certainly interested in shopping centres, maybe food courts. A lot the malls are starting to develop two types of dining areas - the casual outdoor-seating-type and the traditional mall precincts inside."
Restaurant Brands already operates 36 Taco Bell stores spread throughout Hawaii and Guam. Together those stores generated $19.4 million to the group in the last financial year.
Creedy said the NZX-listed company was open to the idea of potentially repurposing under-performing Carl's Jr stores to accommodate Taco Bell stores.
Restaurant Brands expects Taco Bell will be well-received in New Zealand.
"Taco Bell is going to surprise people very pleasantly, and certainly has a very large following. It has a lot of attributes for a modern brand in our modern society."
Creedy promised that the prices offered at Taco Bell would be cheaper than alternative Mexican food options in the market.
"Mexican chains to date are perceived as fairly expensive and it's no secret that Taco Bell's generally able to fit in below that level. We're certainly not looking to price above or even on parity," he said in response to questions of $15 burritos sold at other outlets.
"Once we look at the market and the actual costs of operating I'm sure we'll settle on a place which is better value and a better experience."
The market has shifted a lot from being primarily drive-thru markets to now being quite ready for and in-line with mall-type restaurants.
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Mohandeep Singh, senior research analyst at Craigs Investment Partners, said Restaurant Brands' move to introduce Taco Bell in New Zealand was expected.
"There have been questions swirling for a few years now on when they will bring it here, and that has intensified since they took over this business in Hawaii which already had Taco Bell established," Singh said.
"Kiwis are keen on that Mexican theme, there are plenty of Mexican restaurants - it's a style of food that's resonating well."
There are already three Taco Bell stores in Queensland in Australia, operated by Colins Foods, which also holds the rights to operating KFC stores there.
Collins Foods holds the rights to the brand in Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria. Restaurant Brands can operate Taco Bell stores in New South Wales.
The rival company has plans for up to 50 Taco Bell Australian stores in the next three years.