350. Del Taco's New Look. 
Aug 8, 2011 at 11:37AM
jj

Wow - it's been a long while since I've done one of these articles. When covering new identity work, you have to move fast. No sense being the second design blog to cover it, so if I felt like I was behind or that it was covered somewhere else, I just didn't post it. Most likely, you would see it somewhere else. But I think I got the jump on this one, so here goes.

Del Taco, the Lake Forest, CA based quick-service taco eatery, has just launched a new prototype store in California and Texas. Officially intended as a pilot program, the new prototype features a revised seating pattern to accomodate different types of groups; refreshed wall graphics that promote more of the latin heritage of the company—and I'm using the term heritage loosely here—and an increased focus on quality above the value for which they are most well-known. Currently the chain has over 525 stores in 17 states, so you may not see this change for quite some time at your local DT.

My main contact with the brand came in Phoenix where most of the restaurants are connected to gas stations. The only other thing I can recall about them is that they have ridiculously cheap tacos. Somehow, they've managed to undercut Taco Bell in both price and ambiance, which is remarkable. When your brand is making Taco Bell look extravagant, maybe it is time for a brand update?

Check out This Vintage Location (Minus the gas station, but with a cool sun logo. Let's bring that back!):

One of the first things that strikes this author, is the updated identity. They've taken all of the familiar elements within their logo (the hills, the sun, and the script-type) and given them a make over. The new mark has more angles and crisp tails in place of the softer, more cartoonish elements of the past. Everything is still there, it's just more refined. The sun looks less like a five-year-old crayon sketch and more like a circular saw blade, and yes reminiscent of the original. Yay. The hills more like actual western topography. And the script type gets a bit more style. The palette is roughly the same, with an additional dark orange band added to the sun. I don't think I'd say that I like the design of the new logo per se, but it's an appropriate update of the old, and I like it far better than the original. (Well, not the original original, that sun is pretty cool.) Take a look:

Del Taco Identity:

According to franchising.com, "Del Taco's fans also contributed significantly to the final logo and current new store prototype. Through focus groups and online surveys, Del Taco customers were given a chance to weigh in and assist in refining the new logo, new building design, and new colors."  It's always good to give the guy who walks up drunk to your fast food lane at 3:30am a say in your brand, I think. John Cappasola, Del Taco's Chief Brand Officer added, "Del Taco's fans also contributed significantly to the final logo and current new store prototype. Through focus groups and online surveys, Del Taco customers were given a chance to weigh in and assist in refining the new logo, new building design, and new colors."

Like I said, this refresh goes far beyond just the combination mark. The company paid a lot of attention the atmosphere of the restaurant, going for a clean yet friendly environment. It doesn't push any boundaries or conventions of what you expect from a fast-food joint, but it seems to do them all about as well as anyone else.

New Facade and Interior Shots:

A Fuzzy Little Peak at the All-Important Menu: (Where good design and common sense die. At least usually.)

The Salsa Bar Die-cut Wall Graphics: (Maybe the most interesting element in the whole redesign.)

More Die-cut Graphics and New Fangled Coke Machine:

Curb-Appeal? New vs Old:

Now, let's talk typography. For quite some time Del Taco has been using a typeface called, Haunted Mansion, or at least one exactly like it. As you'd expect, it's not exactly a classic face. Then again, it's not like we're talking about an authentic Mexican restaurant either, so it probably balances out in the end. Haunted Mansion does seem to have a ton of variants and terminals, and they've been used to some effect in all of the chain's posters, packaging, and website. You can see how the face may have actually inspired the custom typography in the updated identity, if you look close enough. Since, I consider DT to be somewhat trashy food, this somewhat trashy typeface seemed to work.

Haunted Mansion - Available Here:

A Good...er...Bad Example of Their Old Signage: (Check out their facebook page for more of this stuff. If you dare.) It's got a lot going on: dropshadows, textures, floating food, funky tribal elements, and in case you missed it: a 59 cent burrito.

In the newer looks, it appears that they've ditched most of the uses for Haunted Mansion and have replaced it with more traditional fare. I'm not sure if this will extend into other areas, or if it's strictly a wall-graphic treatment. It's hard to tell at this point. I'm torn here, because while the new type is more refined, I'm not sure that it matches as well. Could it be that bad typography in the right context is good typography? I guess so. (I think the top type is Archive Antique Extended, or something close. One of my personal faves.)

Overall, there's nothing too crazy going on here. It feels like a fairly typical QSR refresh meant to satisfy franchisee owners, board members, stock holders and the public. It's hard to please all four groups and still do something remarkable. The refreshed store and identity were produced in collaboration with San Francisco-based Tesser, Inc. Their portfolio is chock full of retail environment work for Ben & Jerry's, Dominos Pizza, Quiznos and KFC among others.

Throughout this whole article, I've been trying not to hold their Facebook Super Show deal against them. I almost made it.

Article originally appeared on Graphicology (http://www.graphicology.com/).
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