Taco Bell, home of the ever-beloved Baja Blast, opens new restaurants all the time — but its latest location in Times Square is far from the company’s norm. There aren’t any menu boards, for one thing, because you can only order ahead online or at a touchscreen kiosk. And there aren’t any workers at the cash register, either. Instead, customers pick up their meals from a secure food locker.
This contactless system is perfect for pandemic-era cleanliness, removing the need for human interaction altogether if you order ahead on the Taco Bell app. It’s also the perfect opportunity for Taco Bell to flex its interior design muscles — the new Catina is located on the bottom floor of the Paramount Building, one of Times Square’s oldest buildings. It’s full of colorful, floor-to-ceiling murals and pink overhead lighting meant to be reminiscent of Times Square’s myriad billboards. There is seating available, too.
The new location is more than just a sleek Catina — it’s also a test of just how well a Taco Bell can run without traditional cashiers.
Going digital — Times Square — even in the middle of a pandemic — can be overwhelmingly busy with tourists and New Yorkers. Anyone who has ever visited the spot knows eating in its center is often a chaotic experience. Even on a non-pandemic shift, cashiers and other food service workers end up on the front lines of that ongoing battle.
Removing cashiers from the equation should streamline the Cantina’s activities, making it much easier for employees to complete orders in an efficient and timely manner. If the system fares well, there’s a good chance it’ll make its way to other Taco Bell locations, too. Digital orders already make up about 20 percent of Taco Bell’s overall sales, up from 5 percent pre-pandemic, according to Insider.
Plus a limited-edition drink — This wouldn’t be a special Taco Bell without a limited-edition drink to go along with your Crunchwrap Supreme. The new Times Square Cantina will sell a Bell Apple Freeze, which reportedly has a sweet cherry-apple flavor. Color us intrigued.
And there’s always some Taco Bell swag for purchase at the kiosks, for the real stans.
The futuristic Catina location opens up Wednesday, and we’re sure those lockers will have a long line. Luckily Taco Bell has created a full virtual tour of the restaurant for those of us further from the Big Apple.