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Taco Bell Testing Fast-Casual Concept

IRVINE, Calif. – Taco Bell will test the waters of the fast-casual restaurant market with the opening of U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom. The more upscale brand will open this summer in Huntington Beach, Calif., according to a report by the Orange County Register.

U.S. Taco Co. will feature Day of the Dead-themed branding and a menu that includes higher-priced premium tacos designed to be twists on classic regional dishes, such as Texas-style brisket tacos.

A second Southern California location is planned, one that will offer alcohol-spiked milkshakes. More U.S. Taco Co. locations could appear in the future.

"I would love one day to see 1,000 of these," said Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed. "But let's not get that far ahead of ourselves. We're opening a restaurant and seeing what happens."

The menu of U.S. Taco Co. is based on American meals and does not include burritos, beans, rice or tortilla chips. "This is not a Chipotle walk-along," nor a spinoff of Taco Bell, Creed told the news outlet, noting that "Taco Bell is Mexican-inspired, and U.S. Taco is American-inspired."

The core menu consists of 10 tacos and daily chalkboard specials with names such as the Southern Squealer and Smokey & The Bandito.

Inside the restaurant, customers will be able view their orders being cooked as requested through glass in a "food theater." The décor features bright yellow, red and blue colors along with contemporary lighting, wooden tabletops and floors, and subway tile, according to the report. Diners can eat outside on a patio as they listen to rock music.

The project that evolved into the U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom was secretly launched by Creed himself last year, tucked away in a seldom-visited part of Taco Bell's headquarters building, Senior Brand Manager Jeff Jenkins told USA Today.

Along with being higher quality, the food will also look better, part of the company's efforts to appeal to Millennials. "Everyone in the U.S. has become a foodie," Jenkins said. "The first thing young people do in a restaurant is take out their camera and take a picture of their food — and post it on Instagram."

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