Taco Bell is opening a hotel — sort of — to give it an edge over other fast food chains.
For five nights in August, Taco Bell is taking over a Palm Springs hotel and turning it into The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort in Palm Springs. The Bell will feature new and traditional Taco Bell menu items, a Taco Bell gift shop, Taco Bell nail art and more.
Stunts like this one give fast food chains a chance to set themselves apart in a crowded market, where value meals may not be enough. Ideally, they raise brand awareness and create buzz around the brand on social channels.
Domino’s promised to help cities pave their potholes. For Mother’s Day, KFC let customers create a custom video for mom — featuring shirtless “Chickendales” dancers. Arby’s offered customers a 24-hour-long Hawaiian vacation for $6. Hoegaarden, the Belgian beer brand owned by Anheuser-Busch (BUD), raffled off a spring break trip to Belgium. The list goes on.
Promotions like the Bell can give consumers a reason to “think of us as a cool and innovative brand,” Matt Prince, senior manager of public relations and brand experience at Taco Bell, told CNN Business. He called it a way “to ensure that Taco Bell has a really special place in culture.”
For Taco Bell, the hotel is a way to get people “immersed” in a Taco Bell experience — and share the love online.
Most chain restaurants throughout the country are basically the same: With a few exceptions, visiting a Taco Bell in New York City is a pretty similar experience to visiting a Taco Bell in, say, Los Angeles. That consistency can be a good thing. But it also means that that consumers don’t get much of an opportunity to experience something different.
Starbucks is tackling that problem with its elaborate Roasteries, massive stores that include alcohol bars, on-premise coffee roasters and casks, as well as special, pricey menu items. Starbucks has five Roasteries globally, and plans to open a sixth.
For Taco Bell, promotions like The Bell can help give customers something different without putting pressure on franchisees.
When companies introduce new menu items, franchise employees have to learn a new recipe without slowing down — at a time when the new item is driving extra traffic to locations. Off-menu promotions can create interest in the brand.
Plus, a Taco Bell resort would look great on Instagram.
Visitors at the hotel can act as unofficial brand ambassadors on social.
The hotel will feature menu items that many consumers may not be aware of, like its breakfast items. People who stay at the hotel will see them, and — if they post about them on social platforms — share the news with others as well.
Chipotle (CMG) employed a similar tactic when it expanded its rewards program nationwide. The chain