Founder of Taco Bell dies at 86 at his Rancho Santa Fe home

Glenn Bell Jr, the founder of Taco Bell restaurants, died over the weekend at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, the company announced Monday. He was 86.

No cause of death was listed for Bell, who is survived by his wife of 54 years, Martha.

“Glenn 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 statement on the company’s Web site. “His innovative business acumen grew out of humble beginnings and created one of the nation’s largest restaurant chains in Taco Bell.”

According to the Irvine-based company, Bell opened a drive-in restaurant in 1948 in San Bernardino, where he had studied the successful McDonald’s restaurants.

He decided to differentiate his restaurant by offering Mexican food, and later became involved in other fast food ventures, including the first Der Weinerschnitzel hot dog stand.

Bell opened his first Taco Bell restaurant in 1962 in Downey, and quickly expanded to Long Beach and other areas in the Los Angeles area.

Taco Bell eventually became a franchise operation, and now includes more than 5,600 restaurants serving two billion tacos and one billion burritos annually, according to company officials.

He sold Taco Bell to Pepsi Co. in 1978, and it is now owned by a Pepsi spinoff, Yum.

Bell is also survived by two sons, a daughter, three sisters, and four grandchildren.

Private funeral services are pending.

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