3 Lessons From the Upcoming Taco Bell Hotel

Author: David McMillin       

Most meeting planners book group business at major hotel brands, but there’s a new boutique property on the horizon that offers consumers a different experience: The Taco Bell Hotel is coming.

The fast food giant is opening a pop-up hotel in Palm Springs, California this summer. And while cheap burritos and Mountain Dew Baja Blast may not be part of the diets of today’s health-conscious attendees, Taco Bell’s decision to open the doors of its first hotel gives those involved in planning brand experiences something to chew on.

  1. Effective marketing doesn’t require any details.

Taco Bell announced this hotel stunt with nearly nothing to promote. There’s a website that features a three-sentence introduction about “plenty of surprises” and a goal “to make all of your taco dreams come true,” along with an 11-second video that’s light on details. Still, with little in the way of info, the concept managed to create a media buzz with articles in CNN, Yahoo Lifestyle, USA Today, CNBC, and other outlets. My favorite headline for the pop-up hotel came from KOMO News in Las Vegas: “Nacho average hotel.”

Event organizers often struggle with a lack of information to generate interest when registration time looms — speakers haven’t signed contracts, and venues haven’t been confirmed. However, Taco Bell’s announcement proves that there’s something to be said for simple and mysterious promotions to pique curiosity.

  1. There is limited availability for guests, but there is no limit to the amount of data Taco Bell can collect.
Taco Bell

Taco Bell sends this auto response to everyone who signs up for the company’s email updates about the hotel. (Courtesy Taco Bell)

According to initial reports, this hotel (no one even seems to know the exact location) is only open for three nights. That means that when Taco Bell starts accepting reservations in early June, there will be quite a few disappointed people who will not be able to enjoy eating some combination of cheese, beef, beans, and tortillas for each meal of the day. However, Taco Bell is most likely more interested in getting those fans to visit their locations throughout the year and staying in touch with their super fans. Anyone interested in booking a room is required to submit their name and email address, which means that Taco Bell now has a pathway to my inbox — and eventually, my stomach.

Event organizers can take cues from Taco Bell’s simple invitation to “Be the first to know when reservations go live.” Rather than driving all website visitors to input their data and their credit card numbers on a registration page for a meeting, consider a smaller request: Input your email address to find out when new speakers and sessions are added.

  1. The off-site audience is equally as important.

It’s impossible to know what the Taco Bell Hotel will look like, but the environment will be designed for sharing. Sure, the chain wants to give its biggest fans an exclusive and immersive experience in all things Taco Bell, but it also wants those fans to create more fans who didn’t make reservations. Keep an eye on Instagram during the property’s short run in August, and it’s a safe bet that the social-media channel will be filled with can-you-believe-this-is-a-hotel images.

Meetings and events may not feature inflatable pool toys in the shape of hot sauce packets or on-site salons with Taco Bell nail art, but those environments should take into account the need to satisfy an appetite for social-media content. A good place to start is the bar menu. Check out “How to Create Instagrammable Cocktails for Your Event.”