Taco Bell is opening a hotel, but what does it mean?
Taco Bell is opening a hotel, but what does it mean?
17 MAY 2019 7:22 AM

Taco Bell’s latest marketing push is to temporarily open a hotel in Palm Springs, California. But what does it mean for the real hotel that’s hosting it?

Taco Bell is opening a hotel. Really.

This is not a gag. Well, it’s definitely a stunt, but it’s not a gag.

The fast food giant announced plans on Thursday for “The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort,” which will open on 9 August in Palm Springs, California.

I usually reserve these blog spaces to try and ask a big question or say something I think is widely impactful for the industry, but I don’t think I’ll be able to stretch a Taco Bell hotel into being a big moment for the industry at large. At the same time, I do think this is something that is at least mildly interesting for hoteliers.

So the premise of this Taco Bell hotel is that it will only be available for a limited time, with reservations opening in June. That would seem to indicate that this is not a true move into the hotel industry by this massive purveyor of quick tacos as much as a marketing campaign meant to grab some viral attention.

That is by no means a bad thing, but functionally that means most likely this is taking place at an existing hotel with its own brand and identity that has temporarily consented to handing all of that over to Taco Bell. It leaves me to wonder about the actual hotel that is serving as the host, temporarily possessed by the spirit of the Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

The news release announcing “The Bell” makes no mention of the property it’s taking place at or how long the engagement will be. But what does the business relationship between those two entities look like? How would it affect performance metrics like RevPAR and ADR?

What about existing business on the books? Can you imagine having any sort of business meeting or, god forbid, a wedding scheduled at a hotel only to arrive and find out it’s now a Taco Bell?

I have absolutely nothing against Taco Bell, but it’s definitely not the place I’d think of first when it comes to hosting one of the most important days of my life.

Maybe I’m misinterpreting the mechanics of how this will all work out, but it’s still interesting nonetheless. If my assumption is correct, is this a unique new revenue driver for more flexible properties in shoulder seasons? If you’re willing to temporarily forego your traditional brand identity for some stunt marketing, it seems like you’d have the possibility for a quick cash-in, assuming it wouldn’t alienate your already loyal guests and business partners.

Also this all leads to wondering what could come next.

Will there be a KFC hotel? A Pizza Hut hotel? Lots of big-box hotels have branded coffee shops like Starbucks inside them. Maybe they can flip the script and have a giant Starbucks with a tiny Marriott Marquis on the ground floor.

I wonder if all of this will be the big talk at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in a couple of weeks?

What do you think? Let me know via email or on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  • Robert Rauch May 17, 2019 11:11 AM Reply

    Sean, while it is unique that Taco Bell is doing this, the only difference between this and another hotel buyout is that the hotel and the client (Taco Bell) have agreed to allow the client an opportunity to market it under their name for a weekend. It'll get more ink for Taco Bell, more dollars for the hotel. Fair deal. No damage done to hotel. Nobody loses, everybody wins, many love Taco Bell! My 2 cents!

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