Goodbye California Taco Bell

Today I decided to have one last “meal out” before closing up shop for a while, and had lunch at Taco Bell. What can I say, I like their burritos.

Well, thanks to the $15 “Living Wage” law, I’ll not be bothering to stop at Taco Bell anymore in California. So long, Taco Bell, it was nice to know you.

The Event

I got there about 12:35 PM. That is, prime Lunch Rush. Usually (i.e. in the past) there was a significant line and sometimes hard to find a place to sit if you arrived that late in the “rush”. Today there were 3 tables “occupied”. One was a guy waiting for his “to go” order. Another had one guy using it as his “office on the road” and with the remains of a small meal on the tray next to him (showing he paid space rent for a while). The other had two older women, one of whom was eating.

So for the start of my meal, there were two of us actually eating something. About 1/2 way through, they left, and I was the only person eating anything.

At one point, I was the only person seated as the others left and only one new guy came in to study the menu (for a long while… sticker shock?).

I left about 12:50 and for a little while, nobody was eating as the two new folks were still waiting for their orders.

You can’t survive on a lunch rush turnover of 1 meal / 10 to 15 minutes. Not with three people behind the counter (as they had). IIRC, it used to be 4 or 5 during lunch rush and they were very busy making meals in a hurry. Now not so much.

The Bill

Of necessity some of the “prior price” data is just from the rusty memory bin. FWIW, I do remember it was a few years back that they crossed the $5 Lunch barrier for fancier dishes like their Taco Salad. At that time I swapped to one of my favorites that was very affordable. 2 “Combination Burritos” and a drink. The Combo was beans & beef. It was about $1.69 for a long time. More recently rising to about $2 each.

My original favorite before the combo burrito was the “Bell Beefer”, a scoop of what was basically Mexican sloppy Joe mix on a hamburger bun, with cheese, lettuce, etc. It was 99 ¢ “back in the day”. So of course Taco Bell cancelled it many years ago. And I moved on to the Combo Burrito.

The Combo, being my favorite, Taco Bell, of course, cancelled it.

For a while you could still get it by ordering a Beef Burrito, add beans.

Taco Bell, of course, cancelled the beef burrito.

Now you can get it by ordering the bean burrito, add beef. That was about $1 for the bean burrito and 75 ¢ for the added beef last time I paid attention. I could still get out the door for under $5 in most places in the country (drink prices vary a lot but was about $1 – $2 depending on size and location).

Well, now the bill was over $9 for lunch for one. 2 Burritos & iced tea.

I’ll not be bothering to even try a Taco Bell in California any more. I’m done.

Bean Burrito - $1.99  
so two of them $3.98
Plus Beef    - $1.10
so two of them $2.20
Iced Tea Med.  $2.49
Total of stuff $8.67
Sales Tax      $ .80
Total Bill     $9.47

This is for two tortillas with canned beans and a spoon of hamburger slop on top, and a bit of cheese & sauce, plus an iced tea. Make it yourself for about $1 (or 2 if extravagant).

No way your typical school kid or laborer is going to pop almost $10 for lunch, and it showed in the lack of a crowd. Then realize this is ordering their least pricey and least promoted “special” items. This is near the rock bottom you can do.

Observations

Of the folks in there, striking by their absence were the working class. Yes, it’s Saturday, but still, I’ve seen yard maintenance crews and various delivery drivers and such in Taco Bell at weekend lunch.

This time? Of all the people I saw in the time there:

4 Clearly retired (including me).
1 Delivery Kid
1 Middle Aged On The Road Guy working his books.
2 Semi-Business class “30 something” just entered as I was leaving.
1 Maybe retired walking in.

It looked to me, also, like what retired folks were in there, were likely on a special outing and deciding not to come back again. The table of two older women had only one eating, the other was “drink only”. The guy “working his bookings” had a small lunch plate on his tray, so had a meal. The newly arrived maybe retired inspected the whole menu for about 10 minutes and still had not ordered when I left.

My prediction is that Taco Bell will start closing shops in California fairly soon. Likely also true for other “fast food” places. When I can make an hours worth of wages by taking a sack lunch to work, I pack a lunch. Most folks minimum wage is under $9 here (though they are trying to make it $15 for everyone). When I can make a ham sandwich (that I really like) for about the cost of the tax on this meal, and way less than the cost of the soda, I’m making a sandwich. And when an Ice Tea costs over 2 bucks, I’ll make my own and pack a thermos next time.

I make my own (better) burritos at home, so I’m not going to be needing a burrito fix. For beans, just open a can of Rosaritta Refried and heat. Cheese is sprinkle from the bag of shredded Mexican blend. Sauce? Lots of choices. Making the chili meat can’t be easier. Crumble hamburger into a pan and fry it on medium. Add some minced onions, sprinkle of garlic powder, dusting of comino (cumin), and “hotness to taste”. Sometimes I’ll add a crushed tomato or some canned, but that’s not as common now as I get “creaky joints” from tomatoes now. One batch lasts a long time in the fridge or freezer and makes a great many burritos.

So Oh Well.

Goodbye Taco Bell, it was nice while it lasted…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in cooking, Economics - Trading - and Money, Food and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Goodbye California Taco Bell

  1. Graeme No.3 says:

    So increasing taxes and wages causes people to lose their jobs (except politicians and bureaucrats). Wow! Who would have thought that?

  2. andysaurus says:

    Like everything the left does, there are compassionate arguments for minimum wage laws and opposing them makes you sound mean, but the ones it hurts are ignored. In this case: 1) people who want a cheap meal; 2) Taco Bell shareholders (likely many pension funds included, so every body with any savings); 3) anybody who needs an entry level job, maybe as a “top up”, maybe just to get a foot on the earning ladder, maybe a student to make their loan go further and who can no longer get a job; 4) the whole of society because the government now has to subsidize those who do not have work. I could extend the ripples by mentioning the fact that the government doesn’t actually have that money to subsidize, so it either prints it (causing inflation) or grabs it through taxes. End result? Venezuela (/North Korea/Zimbabwe/Cambodia etc. et bloody cetera).

  3. H.R. says:

    Hmmm… I just bought 10 specialty tacos for $10 at Taco Bell two nights ago.

    The ‘special’ about them was that it was a regular crunchy beef taco which was then wrapped with a soft tortilla with a layer of chipotle cheddar cheese as the ‘glue’ to hold the soft tortilla to the crunchy taco shell. Mmmmmm GOOD! (Saved the rest for a quick lunch yesterday)

    Taco Bell still has a $1 menu of about 6-8 items here in Florida and my home State, and I’d imagine in quite a few other mostly Red States.

    It seems California will eventually drive all of the major fast food chains out of business. Fortunately for Californians, I’m betting all the mom & pop, 1-off cheap rent hole-in-the-wall walkup Mexican places will remain and do just fine.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @H.R:

    Yup, out of California is still fine.

    When I hit the road, I pack enough to get to Kingman Arizona. There’s a Smith’s grocery / gas station w/ cheap gas and a big low prices Walmart, where I stock up for the trip. Just down the street is a Taco Bell where I get “my usual” as by then I’m tired of ham sandwiches :-)

    In California, I spend two tanks of gas, and make 2 sandwiches…

    The rest of the country is also fine along both I-10 and I-40 and down into Florida. At a KFC in Georgia, I ordered their 2 piece $5 meal, and not only were the pieces much bigger than in California, but they gave me three. It was a rainy night and a bit late, so maybe they were clearing out excess… but it was just “here have another one”… I’ve not seen the $5 meal here lately, even with the dinky sized pieces…

    REALLY want to get to Florida ASAP…

  5. ossqss says:

    Well as a Taco bell recipient. I suspect you will start seeing the fast food industry changing quickly down the path that banks have. Automation and drive in service only. Makes sense since for lazy, they can have it delivered through a 3rd party now days. Not sure how the Taco’s would do after about 15 minutes.

    @EM, word up, drinks are where they make their best margins, but they should provide for a cup of water at no charge. I was reminded the other day at a stop with my son. My beer was $2.50 and his tap coke was $2.89. What is their cost with a cup?

    Anyhow, I would tell the lettuce on anything from there over the last few years is not the same. It has an extra couple gears now to get through you system. Just sayin, probably has to do with that lettuce hygiene problem a few years ago.

    Dangit, now I am hungry :-)

  6. philjourdan says:

    A burrito is merely a sandwich using a tortilla. And I eat them all the time. My wife (Mexican) cooks dinners on weekends and since it is only the 2 of us, I have my meals for the rest of the week. And she is a good cook (once I remarked how good her sister’s Albondigas was, and when we got back from Cali – she made it for me – and hers was better – and I would say that even if she was not holding the meat cleaver over my head as I write this).

    So I eat burritos all the time But I do like TB’s 5 layer burrito, for only $2. But that may change here as well, as the dem-idiots are bound and determined to turn this state into Cali-East.

    We shall see if the morons of citizens wake up and vote them out in 2 years, but for now, we are stuck with Gavin-Newsome-light

    Kind of an escape clause is the fact that the illegal creation of WV, came with some hanging chads. Some counties apparently can join that state without permission from anyone, And of course there is the issue of precedence. So maybe Frederick will drag a few more and start an avalanche I hate the idea of joining the state of the the last KKK member, but if the democrats remain in control in 2 years, I will swallow that and vote to move to WV, county and all.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ossqss:

    This one has added 2 order kiosks for serve yourself ordering, and I think there’s an online order method. So yeah, it is happening.

    @PhilJourdan:

    I grew up eating real Mexican cooking. It is great stuff. Most of what I learned about seasoning was from Mama Celerina… my buddy’s mom.

    I can make my own refritos and do it well, but Rosarita beans are very good. Put them in a fry pan with a bit of lard and refry them, you get that classical bit of crisp finish to the edges.

    Then yeah, a burrito is just a flat bread sandwhich. Put anything in it you like. Carnitas is my favorite. Slow roasted pulled pork with Mexican seasoning. Or cheese and beans for quick and easy. Or scrambled eggs for breakfast. Toss the tortilla in a hot cast iron skillet, flip it, then load the scrambled eggs, season, and go!

  8. philjourdan says:

    I only spent 6 years in Cali growing up. But a few of those years were when my best friend was Benny – he was Mexican – and we were around 14. Old enough to be left on our own. And we loved to fish! So we got up early one Saturday and went to a lake by the hospital. His mother prepared some home made tortillas with butter on them and wrapped them in tin foil.

    That was heaven! We each caught exactly one bass that day, But the lunch of just plain tortillas is what I remember to this day.

    So it is no wonder I know my wife is an excellent cook. :-)

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh man, I’ll toss a buttered tortilla in the microwave oven for 10 seconds…now that’s good!

    Warm and melted butter folded in the middle… just watch out for drips!

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    Not Taco Bell, but a whole bunch of issues. It does point out that the $15 minimum wage for all is coming, incrementally. So if you want to know why leaving California is in the works, here is just a summary of a few of the reason:

    Yesterday I signed the recall petition for Gov. Gavin Nuisance…

  11. philjourdan says:

    a $15 minimum wage will come eventually. In some places it has come naturally. Like North Dakota. Congress can mandate it, but all that does is increase teen unemployment. And lose more jobs to automation.

    ANd liberals will never understand it.

  12. H.R. says:

    @philjourdan: Ha! Glad you mentioned N.D.

    North Dakota: that’s a prime example of where no one wants to be unless you pay them enough. But at least in N.D. the money all balances because Joe Six-pack is getting paid plenty enough to pay for the fast food workers, who are getting paid relatively enough,

    Meanwhile, back in Cali, if you are not particularly inclined to poop on the street and have a tendency to show up most days more or less on time and perhaps not too stoned, then by golly! you have a high-paid career ahead of you at the nearest McDonalds or Jack-in-the-Box.

    The first case, North Dakota, is not an exaggeration. No one, no one pines for their old Dakota Home. If it weren’t for the pay they’d be on Miami beach in a heartbeat.

    The second case, California? Well, you just gotta ask yourself: how many holes can you shoot in the bottom of your canoe before you start thinking that maybe that’s a bad idea?

  13. Gary says:

    An argument could be made that increasing the minimum wage is just a response to the Fed devaluing the currency — cost of inflation adjustments. Problem is that the adjustment is made from political calculations rather than economic.

    Here in the Northeast I’m seeing the fast food places (Burger King, McDonalds, Wendy’s) in a price war where they offer two items for a price just a bit higher than the single.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    The basic problem is that there IS some equilibrium wage where people are employed and product made. ANY legislated move away from that wage will break the balance and you either have unemployment (wage too high) or rationing (price too low for effective allocation).

    Everything else is distraction, lies, and pointless.

  15. philjourdan says:

    In the wage wars, you do not get rationing since labor is fungible. Before there was a minimum wage set by law, there was a minimum wage. Set by the market, Once the law set an arbitrary one (which created a real one of 0 – called unemployment), that meant that some would be unemployed while others would have an illusion of a decent wage.

    In India, there are no minimum wage laws (and no social safety net). So people do some strange things to earn a living. One man goes into the big city every day and picks up plastics for recycling. He brings it to another man who pays him by weight, The second man then sorts the plastic based upon grade, color, etc, He then sells it to the actual recycler.,

    So the next scream I hear is going to be from some SJW asking if I want the US to be like India. Because SJWs do not understand what a life lesson is.

    I am pointing out that when you do not legislate a minimum wage, which was designed to be very racist (force blacks to be unemployed – it still works that way), the demand for labor will equal the supply of labor at a negotiated price. Government interference in that price will result in shortages on one side of the ledger, Period. It always has and always will.

    The REASON that some places can get away with raising the minimum to $10 is that the market has already pushed it to that level! But not to $15. Where that occurs, you are getting unemployment as employers move out.

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    Sorry I was unclear on the rationing. Rationing of the product since you can not hire enough labor to meet demand.

  17. philjourdan says:

    OI! Sorry for not using gray cells to move beyond “government rationing”.

    But at least my shortsightedness gave me a soap box for venting.

  18. H.R. says:

    @philj – Rationing? I thought the gummint was subsidizing soapboxes ;o)

    Actually, I’m not sure if I’m joking until I search on Gov+subsidy+soapbox. I’m so jaded now that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was true.

  19. Eric Barnes says:

    The price for soft drinks/tea is outrageous. I often feel better about what I’ve paid if I just get plain water. There are curious upcharges. I like meximelts, but they are on the pricey side. My wife will often get a taco 12 pack and ask for sides of pico de gallo, which they often put in for free. The family gets by for $13.99 rather than $20 plus, which makes a difference.

    McDonalds has something similar. Sausage Egg Mcmuffin’s are about $3.40, but Sausage McMuffin’s are $1.29. The egg’s are a breeze to cook and only cost about 10 cents a piece from Costco. Not hard to cook up 2 eggs and I’ve pocketed $4.

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, today I had the same lunch at the Taco Bell just outside the Buena Vista entrance to Disney World. $5.10 total.

    Bean burrito – $1.29
    Plus beef 60 ¢
    So x2 is $3.98

    I also think they were bigger and heavier… then drink was reasonable and tax about 30 ¢ At $5.10 all totaled up, very reasonable. I was there at about 3 P.M. Eastern (tummy still on west coast time claiming lunchtime ;-) there were about a dozen folks, even at this slow non-rush time, all with meals in progress.

    Quite a contrast with the California situation.

  21. philjourdan says:

    Taco bell (or any Taco joint) is not like a burger place. Oh they can mass cook the beans, and meat. But someone (not a machine) still has to combine them. And you are right, they are cheap. And good (beans take on the flavor of other ingredients).

    I remember many years ago when 7 of us ate at Mickey Ds for less than $5 (most of your audience remembers those days as well). It may not be $5 at Taco bell, but 5 can eat for $10, and pig out on $20.

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    I ought to mention also that at a KFC in Alabama, the $5 fill ‘er up 2 piece leg and thigh meal had nice sized pieces and was filling. Better cooked than in California too…

    It is nice to get a decent meal on the road for $5 and under.

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