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Two stories this morning about how a pair of companies are testing new formats as a way of expanding their appeal.

•  The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports that there is a new two-story Taco Bell drive-through-only format - named "Defy" - opened in the Brooklyn Park section of the Twin Cities.

The format, which also has an extra-large kitchen, has "the goal of reducing service times to two minutes or less.   Only one of the lanes is used for the conventional drive-up orders. The three others are focused on pickup, delivering food already ordered either through the Taco Bell app or a third-party delivery app, like Uber Eats or DoorDash. Orders are sent down from the upstairs kitchen to waiting cars via a proprietary vertical lift."

The format was developed by Taco Bell franchisee Border Foods.  Border's CEO, Lee Engler said in a statement. "It is a creative, technological solution for a faster, contactless experience for as many Taco Bell fans as possible and is poised to be the future of quick-service dining."


•  Culture Map Dallas reports that "Irving-based convenience store king 7-Eleven has opened a new store in Dallas with a previously unheard-of offering at a 7-Eleven store: a patio.

"Located at 13635 Preston Rd. at the corner of Alpha Road, this is one of the chain's 'Evolution Stores,' a concept that strives to upgrade the convenience store model, serving as a testing ground featuring their latest products and innovations.

"According to a release, it's the fifth Evolution Store in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and ninth in the country.

"All Evolution Stores include a restaurant concept, although no two locations are exactly alike, as they tweak the design and product mix based on customer feedback and shopping habits with every new location.  For this new store, that means a covered outdoor patio on one side of the building for customers to enjoy outdoor seating, frozen margaritas, and beer on tap. Hey let's go have a beer and chill on the patio at 7-Eleven."

7-Eleven Vice President of Store Evolution and Design Molly Long says in a statement that "these lab stores give us an opportunity to test, learn, and scale successes into our new store standards which ultimately allows us to continuously improve the experience for all our customers."

KC's View:

I think it is important for different kinds of retailers to push the format envelope … see what is possible and workable and, in the end, credible to the consumer.  Every retailer should think about this, and have an answer to this question:

What are we planning today, that we are going to test tomorrow, that we never would've tried yesterday?

If you don't have a good answer, you m ay not have a promising future.