Long before the Taco Bell franchise was owned by the international conglomerate "Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc." (later changed to the less menacing "Yum Brands"), it began as one unremarkable local fast food restaurant started in Downey, California in 1962 by a serial fast food entrepreneur named Glen Bell, Jr. He died yesterday at the age of 86, at his home in exclusive Rancho Santa Fe, California.
Many of the things that Taco Bell has been famous for nationally in the last 20 years or so (like it's 69 cent menu in the mid-1990s) were put in place long after the chain was sold to PepsiCo in 1978 for $125 million. But his personal story is an interesting and very American one nonetheless. A child of the depression, he made himself a very rich man through relentless hard work and repeated risk-taking, perhaps inevitably damaging relationships with some business partners (including the man who later founded Del Taco) and family members along the way. After retiring to Florida in 1970s, he aspired to build a theme park there to compete with Disney World, a dream that ultimately went unfulfilled. (If you've already successfully challenged McDonald's, why not Disney next, I suppose.) You can read his entire obituary in the Los Angeles Times today by clicking HERE.