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.
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.
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.
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…