It was a dream come true for foreigners across Tokyo when it was announced that Taco Bell would expand into Asia. The franchise had been here once before briefly in the 80s, and was giving it another go.
By Natalie Jacobsen
Social media has played a critical role for the company these last couple of years: they have a commanding presence on Twitter, and come armed with a snarky team that is eager to interact with and please customers. They launched a social media campaign to bring awareness to their plans, and it worked.
On opening day last month, the streets of Shibuya were more crowded than previously imagined—the line for Taco Bell wrapped around the block—the equivalent of a 4 to 5 hour wait. Dismayed by the long lines, and trying to be rational about the situation, my friends and I delayed our reunion with Mexican fast food until the lines were shorter than the wait for the Indiana Jones rollercoaster.
Over the weekend, to our delight, we walked through the door after waiting only 45 (!) minutes. With dewy eyes, we rushed to the counter and ordered our food triumphantly. They handed us a little remote that would vibrate when our orders were ready. We had nearly 20 minutes to look around as we waited; it was certainly the most aesthetically pleasing Taco Bell we’d ever been in: mural-painted walls, brick columns, wood floors, and a lounge area in the basement with a loft, a den, and several green chairs and purple couches. Dim lighting and vintage photos from the US branch surrounded the dozens of people gorging themselves on delicacies they likely hadn’t experienced in months, even years.
At last, we had our feast. We dove in, bracing for disappointment, but finding ourselves pleasantly surprised. Eating fast food overseas can often be quite a different experience than it is back home: the foreign branches of familiar chains are often trying to appeal to different audiences or abide by different food regulation laws. But the meals here seemed to be supplied straight from the States. The menu was quite limited, though we suspect it’ll be expanded once demand dies down. We appreciated the serve-yourself soda fountain (free refills!), even if one of the options was melon soda and not root beer. The portions were generous, so generous that our small, Japanese-trained stomachs couldn’t muster more than a fraction of what we ordered; however, the staff was ready with bags for the rest.
Was the wait worth it? If you have friends to join you and a free afternoon, yes. Did it live up to the hype? Definitely—but let’s see what they decide to do to keep that buzz going.