Nashville has its first Taco Bell Cantina location, which opened in March. The location has a distinct Music City flavor, complete with a stage for musicians and a giant guitar mural on the inside. The restaurant is located at 131 2nd Avenue in Downtown, helping to bring back locals and tourists to the area struck in the Christmas Day bombing.
Like other special Taco Bell Cantina restaurants, the Nashville one serves beers, wines, sangria, and Twisted Freezes. The traditional Taco Bell menu is available, alongside some exclusive "surprises." The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is one of 10 businesses in the area of the bombing that has reopened for customers. "I'd want everyone to know we are open for business. Come see us," Kent Huston, who runs the location, told News4. He said the restaurant was supposed to open in January, but the bombing forced them to delay.
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Taco Bell started opening the "Cantina"-style locations in 2015. The original plan was to have these special restaurants without drive-thrus. However, during the pandemic, one franchisee in California, Diversified Restaurant Group, decided to open a Cantina location with a drive-thru in Danville, California, even including an outdoor fire pit and a gaming area. Diversified even opened a Taco Bell Cantina in Las Vegas with a wedding chapel. "The partnership with Taco Bell is unique," Diversified president SG Ellison told Restaurant Business. “The brand empowers us franchisees with both autonomy and support, which has allowed my business to not just build traditional restaurants, but create destinations."
Other franchisees have cooked up even more unique ideas to streamline the customer experience at Taco Bell locations. Minneapolis franchisee Border Foods told Restaurant Business it is building a Taco Bell with two stories and four drive-thru lanes. In Manhattan, Taco Bell is considering an all-digital, small restaurant location where customers use self-ordering kiosks. The company is even planning to launch a drive-thru concierge service with workers known as "bellhops." The company expects to hire 1,000 bellhops at restaurants across the country this summer.
Back in Nashville, residents and visitors are already enjoying a new Taco Bell experience with live music. The restaurant has an Instagram page with musicians' schedules posted. You can find a map of all Taco Bell Cantina locations at the Taco Bell fan site Living Mas.