In August 1967, Glen W. Bell Jr., chairman of Taco Bell Inc., opened regional headquarters for the chain at 4901r 34 St. N. in St. Petersburg, and announced plans to open franchise locations throughout Florida.
Within weeks ads started appearing northern Florida papers selling the concept of Taco Bell:
SECURE YOUR FUTURE WITH TACO BELL
America’s fastest growing Mexican Food Drive-In Restaurant Chain offers you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
PRIDE: You prepare and serve authentic and delicious Mexican food exclusively. You own the most unique and beautifully designed Mexican Hacienda-style restaurant.
SUCCESS: Over 150 franchised units opened in the past 24 months with more opening all over the nation
PROFITS: The exclusivity of the menu and the uniqueness of the restaurant takes it out of the realm of competition. Earnings are excellent and unlimited!
REQUIREMENTS: The people we select to own a Taco Bell Franchise are able to invest $24,000 in a business with a substantial return, and have the desire to be independent and grow . in their own business.
AREAS AVAILABLE Tampa, Pensacola, West Palm Beach. Ft. Pierce, Lakeland, Gainesville. Jacksonville, and Tallahassee. For Complete Information Write: TACO BELL 4901 34th Street, North St. Petersburg, Fla. 33714
December 14, 1967 a new location opened. The Taco Bell located at 5th Avenue North and 34th St. in St. Petersburg was the first Taco Bell built in the state and the 200th location overall since the company’s inception in 1947.
This was just the start. On December 20th, a Tampa Bay Times article entitled “Taco Tycoon Centers in St. Petersburg”, written by Don Teverbaugh, provided a glimpse in to the mindset of Glen Bell and the company:
Glen W. Bell Jr. knew about St. Petersburg was the old bit about the green benches and the shuffleboard courts and he came here by sheer chance he was on his way to Sarasota.
But Bell liked what he saw in St. Petersburg and decided this was where he wanted his family to live and where he wanted to expand his business.
Bell, a husky ex-marine with a shy smile, is the owner and brains behind one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the nation Taco Bell Inc.
In the past year, Taco Bell has jumped from 100 to 200 franchisee! units in operation. This year they will have a sales volume of more than $200-million, he says.
Like the McDonald’s Hamburger chain, Bell got his start in San Bernadino, Calif. For a few years he would build up small chains of eight or 10 Mexican food shops, then sell them off.
By constantly experimenting he finally came up with the current blend of Mexican foods he features in his Taco Bell shops and he started franchising the system, the first Taco Bell restaurant opened in 1962 and the first franchise unit in 1965.
Today it costs almost $20,000 for a franchise, plus an 8 per cent cut of the profit. Bell selects the site, builds the plant, leases it to the operator (on a 10 year amortization basis) and provides the proven path to profits.
Each operator is given the right of first refusal for any other Taco Bell restaurants planned in his immediate vicinity.
Bell’s first franchised operation in Florida opened here last week and used more than 1,500 pounds of ground beef during the grand opening. It has been a far more successful opening than Bell had ever hoped for, he! concedes.
Bell plans about 40 franchises for Florida. The next to open will probably be in Miami. So far, most of the applicants are from California (where he will not sell any more franchises). In about six months, perhaps a year, Bell plans to sell “about 15 per cent” of his company to the public.
“I think some of these franchise firms have gone public a little too early but look what’s happened to their stock. It has soared. Maybe I’m wrong for waiting,” he smiles.
Right now, Bell is looking over a number of real estate parcels here which he can transform into a training seminar for his steady stream of new operators. He also plans to build a tortilla factory here to supply the Florida and eastern market he is developing.
The first location boomed. hundreds and hundreds of more locations would later follow suit. There is still a Taco Bell on the site of the first one. It is unrecognizable, so I am not sure if it is indeed the same building.