Taco Bell ends its London exile as it presses the ‘go’ button on new UK projects

Taco Bell is set to return to London for the first time since the nineties in what is part of a wider strategy to expand its UK footprint.

The company has had an indifferent relationship with the UK market, having initially opened in the capital in 1986 before scaling back its business, only to refocus on the UK again after being taken over by Yum! Brands.

It currently operates 27 stores in the UK after switching to a tactic of focusing on less city-centric locations.

News of its latest plans to expand its estate suggest the firm is ready to invest heavily in growing its revenues this side of the Atlantic.

Agreements have reportedly been reached with a number of franchisees to open restaurants in Hammersmith, Fulham Broadway and Holborn, while new sites have also been confirmed for Great Yarmouth and Doncaster.

Liz Williams, president of Taco Bell International, has been in the UK this week to survey potential sites and she told the press that the company has no qualms about investing in London now that the Tex Mex market has developed.

She said: “These will be the first of many for us in London. Rent in London is notoriously high, and at the time, there wasn’t as much consumer demand for Mexican food. Today there is huge appetite for this cuisine and the Taco Bell brand.”

In May, franchise specialist Caskade Caterers secured a funding package worth almost £30m to drive the roll-out of new Taco Bell sites in the south of England.

The package, which was worth a total of £29.4m, comprised a £13m loan, £10m revolving credit facility and £6.4m commercial mortgage from HSBC.

It is being used to finance the launch of Taco Bell sites in London and the South West of England, including recent openings in Poole and Southampton.

International operators continue to view the UK market as a good growth bet. Last week Asian chain Jollibee opened its first UK site and is planning more in the near future.

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