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U.S. Mega-Chain Taco Bell Gets Ready to Land in London

A new expansion plan is revealed to include the brand’s first restaurant in the U.K. capital since the late 1980s

Taco Bell Menu Items, Headquarters And Restaurant Shoot Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Taco Bell

The U.S. mega chain Taco Bell — which specialises in Tex-Mex fast food and especially hard shell tacos — is planning to open multiple sites in Britain, including its first in London since 1986, over the next few years. MCA reports that Caskade Caterers which owns the franchise to Taco Bell (as KFC, Costa Coffee and Burger King) has just secured £29.4 million of finance from HSBC to fund a new phase of expansion.

Taco Bell, which is owned by parent company Yum!, currently operates 22 sites in the U.K., — a significantly smaller footprint than the approximately 7,000 sites it has across the U.S. In 1986 the brand opened two sites in the capital: one between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus and one in Earl’s Court. Both closed in the mid 1990s.

The new funding package is being used to facilitate a roll-out across the English south west, which began with recent openings in Southampton and Poole. The next restaurant, MCA says, will open in London this summer before a plan kicks in to open “three to five [additional] stores over the next few years.”

Caskade Caterers is owned by Hamid Ali, who said “continuing to drive expansion is top of our agenda... we’ll be looking to build our portfolio through acquisitions, purchasing new sites and exploring new franchisee options in our target regions.”

Given the woes suffered over the past 12 months by British casual dining chains — including Byron, Jamie’s Italian, Strada and Carluccio’s — the market would appear to be attractive for inbound operators with the clout of Taco Bell. Though it seems U.K. expansion has been on the American mega chain’s to-do list since the Brexit vote in June 2016 (itself a part-precursor to the difficulties faced by that sector of the industry.)

In July 2016 representatives from the company told QSR Media the U.K. was “a very important market” and that it was “working hard to bring Taco Bell to every corner of the UK.” The number of U.K. sites has more than doubled since Britain voted to leave the European Union.

When asked whether the Brexit vote had changed Taco Bell’s plans for openings, the company said: “We are focused on supporting our franchisees and continuing to grow the brand across the UK and Europe with a brand and menu that stays true to the innovative, craveable and affordable Mexican-inspired food that Taco Bell has been delivering for more than 50 years.”