Fast food restaurants in many other parts of the world offer alcoholic beverages, but until lately booze hasn’t been on the menu in lower-end chains in the U.S. But Taco Bell may soon be changing that.
Earlier this summer the chain made news by opening a Chicago location that serves wine, beer, and alcoholic slushies. And the company has announced plans to open new outlets in other cities around the country with the same model. The addition of alcohol is part of the company’s efforts to rebrand itself as more unique and upscale in some key markets where fast food chains are losing ground to fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle, Smashburger, and Qdoba. Many fast-casual chains already sell alcohol.
But critics of the move are concerned that fast food outlets are unprepared to handle some of the complexities that come with serving booze. In an industry where speed counts, will fast-food workers check IDs and make sure that customers aren’t passing alcohol purchases to underage friends? Concerns over the increased potential for underage drinking are perhaps more significant for Taco Bell—a brand that explicitly markets to high school students and college-aged consumers, and a frequent pit stop for folks rolling out of the bar scene on Friday and Saturday nights.
It remains to be seen how alcohol sales at Taco Bell’s Chicago location fare, but both supporters and opponents suggest the move may signal a larger, budding trend among major fast food brands. What do you think about the potential of alcohol sales coming to a fast food restaurant near you?