Is new Taco Bell Defy the future of fast food?

Designed to discourage contact between people, prototype has bigger issues than just destroying human interaction.|

Taco Bell restaurants recently announced a new project called the Taco Bell Defy. The “Defy” part might be a reference to gravity or perhaps to defying expectations.

The entire concept is very non-traditional.

Trying to break the standards of construction and queuing in a car, the design of Taco Bell Defy features four lanes in the drive-thru, with the kitchen on the second story. This gives far more control to traffic flow, hopefully leading to no more blockage issues, which Taco Bell is also known to help remedy in other ways.

No human beings are handing off food to another human being. The mini-elevator acts as the link between the two, seriously limiting human interaction. This is on purpose. It's a response to things like COVID-19, obviously.

It's apparently going to take time to test this style of restaurant before it is implemented nationwide. For now, Taco Bell Defy is just a prototype store, with only one planned in Minnesota.

The restaurant has no dining area, obviously. You can walk in and place an order, but you don't eat there — not inside, not outside, here's your food, go away.

Which, come to think of it, is not dissimilar to other places you get food. Supermarkets generally do not have tables and chairs everywhere, unless they have some kind of attached deli or cafe.

Still, I find the complete lack of dining to be a mistake. It feels like something important is missing like eating food without napkins.

But perhaps, even at fast food places where you can still find chairs and tables, more and more people are just getting their food and leaving. Or maybe they are utilizing a door dash like service to have it delivered. I actually think it's interesting to see innovation in industry, a bit of forward-thinking, always imagining other possibilities, like the possibility of robots delivering Taco Bell to our door.

I don't care for this idea though.I don’t mean the automation or the expedited service. That part’s fine.

It’s Taco Bell I don't really care for.

If I want Mexican food, I go to a Mexican restaurant. Petaluma is full of great Mexican restaurants. I think each and every single one is amazing.

Still, I look forward to the Defy experiment. I’m sure that other franchises are paying close attention. If this proves popular, we'll see more of these kinds of things.

The design of Taco Bell Defy reminds me so much of automated toll booths. Is that the future for us? When we head south to San Francisco, while on the Taco Bell Golden Gordita Bridge, we press down on our vaccine-installed microchip to place a fast food order, then we slow down to pick up our cheesy Castrodilla with a Mountain Dew Alcatraz Pizzazz Pineapple soda, using our Disney FasTrak Genie+ RFID tag to pay.

This way, once we’ve gotten to where we are going, we’ll have had something to eat while we spend three hours looking for parking.

Oliver Graves is a stand-up comic and award-winning columnist. You communicate with him on his Facebook page or through his website,

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