Glen W. Bell Jr., founder of the Taco Bell restaurant chain, died Saturday evening at his home in Rancho Santa Fe. He was 86.
A pioneer of the Mexican quick service restaurant, Glen Bell is best known for founding Taco Bell chain, now a subsidiary of Louisville, Ky. fast food giant Yum! Brands Inc., a PepsiCo spinoff. The chain now has more than 5,600 restaurants in the United States.
Bell's first venture in the restaurant business was in 1948, when he opened Bell's Drive-In in San Bernardino. It originally served hamburgers and hot dogs and was patterned after the growing McDonald’s chain that also was founded in San Bernardino. He later expanded the menu by adding Mexican fare, adjusting the tastes and textures to appeal to mainstream America.
“Mr. Bell introduced an entire nation to the taco and Mexican cuisine,” said Greg Creed, Taco Bell president and chief concept officer, in a press release.
In 1961, Bell, together with his employee John Galardi, started Der Wienerschnitzel. Galardi went on to build Der Wienerschnitzel into a hotdog drive-in chain of his own. Another employee, Ed Hackbarth, eventually opened his own drive-in concept which become the Del Taco chain.
After selling Taco Bell to PepsiCo in 1978, Bell moved to Rancho Santa Fe and created Bell Gardens, a 115-acre model produce farm and landscaped park that he opened to the public, but is not related to the Los Angeles County community. He was also a fervent supporter of 4-H youth agricultural program.
Bell was born Sept. 3, 1923 in Lynwood. A World War II veteran, he served in the Marine Corps and his unit participated in battles at Guadalcanal and Guam as well as post-war service in China. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Martha (“Marty”); three sisters, Delores, Dorothy and Maureen; daughter, Kathleen; two sons, Gary and Rex; and four grandchildren, Brandon, Jordan, Valerie and Christopher. Private funeral services are being planned.
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