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Founder of fast-food chain Taco Bell dies

January 18, 2010 12:43:03 AM PST
The founder of Irvine-based fast-food chain Taco Bell died on Sunday at the age of 86.Glen W. Bell, Jr. was a World War II veteran from Lynwood. Bell's first venture in the restaurant business was in 1948, when he opened Bell's Drive-In in San Bernardino. The restaurant originally served hamburgers and hot dogs, but Bell soon decided to set his menu apart from the wildly successful McDonald's franchise by adding Mexican food.

Bell and a group of business partners opened El Tacos in the Long Beach area in 1958, which became profitable. Still, Bell wanted to start his own chain, so he sold his share of the business. Bell and one of his employees started Der Wienerschnitzel in 1961.

Another one of Bell's employees opened a chain that would later be known as Del Taco.

Finally, in 1962, Bell opened his first Taco Bell restaurant in Downey. More restaurants popped up in the Long Beach, Paramount and Los Angeles areas. Bell sold his first Taco Bell franchise in 1964, and in 1978, Bell sold his 868 Taco Bell restaurants to PepsiCo.

Taco Bell is now owned by Yum! Brands Inc. and serves more than 36.8 million people each week in more than 5,600 restaurants in the U.S. The company says that more than 2 billion tacos and 1 billion burritos are served throughout the United States each year.

"Glen Bell was a visionary and innovator in the restaurant industry, as well as a dedicated family man," said Greg Creed, president and chief concept officer of Taco Bell in a news release. "His innovative business acumen started out of humble beginnings and created one of the nation's largest restaurant chains in Taco Bell."

Bell died at his home in Rancho Santa Fe. He is survived by his wife and two sons.