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The anticipation and talk around town about the opening of Taco Bell in Shallotte has caused me to chuckle the past few weeks. I am not saying I am not as enthusiastic about the new fast food option in Shallotte, I just have never heard such a buzz for a taco.
The restaurant was originally scheduled to open on Monday morning but owners delayed per the request of the police chief.
At the same time the restaurant was set to open, more than 1,000 people were anticipated to arrive in Shallotte to attend the Peace Officers Memorial Service. Restaurant owners agreed to move the opening time from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Monday.
On Monday evening there were many disappointed Taco Bell fans as they arrived to sample the restaurant’s goods on opening day. I pulled into the restaurant around 6 p.m.
The parking lot was full. The restaurant seemed to be full of activity as employees milled about. The line of traffic turning in behind me was constant.
As I made the turn from Main Street into the parking lot, I was waved down by a group of gentlemen. They regretfully informed me that the restaurant wasn’t open. They explained a piece of equipment arrived faulty, and another was ordered. It was expected to be in place by Tuesday morning. They anticipated opening at noon but thought maybe they could open by 10 a.m.
So the wait continued.
On Tuesday I took a chance that the store was open at 11 a.m. and ended up circling the parking lot. Employees were putting menu signs in the drive-through ordering board. They were letting people know the store would be open at noon. I was not the only one hoping Taco Bell was open as numerous cars also made the loop through the parking lot and back to Main Street.
I couldn’t help but think that it was a good thing the two men I heard talking about camping out in their parking lot to be the first in line to order a taco on opening day had changed their plans. It would have been a long wait.
As noon approached, my co-workers and I talked about what we might order. One co-worker headed out the door at 10 minutes until noon. I had a different strategy, as I wanted to wait until the crowds arrived so I could take some pictures.
I ended up heading over a few minutes after noon.
My plan worked. The place was packed.
I joined several others as I parked across the street and navigated busy Main Street traffic on foot. Arriving in the parking lot I noticed drive-through traffic was circled around the building twice. Staff directed traffic and helped guests find parking places. Even the owner Rob Matthews was standing outside holding the door for guests, helping them to their cars and asking everyone if they enjoyed their meal.
“What a great community to serve. We are so excited and they are so excited,” Matthews said. “We love this neighborhood. It’s an exciting time for us.”
Many guests left the store, ringing the bell and smiling as they said they had been waiting a long time to eat tacos in Shallotte.
“The tacos were amazing,” said Rob Long as he and his buddies walked home. They said they had been waiting for the restaurant to open and checking on the store’s progress daily.
As I stood in the parking lot talking with Matthews and checking out the water recycling system and the newest innovations in storm retention ponds, I was offered a sample of the mango Frutista. It was refreshing and delicious.
Inside the restaurant, it was packed. But I walked in the door and right to the counter where my order was taken immediately. I was shocked at the efficiency based on the number of people inside the store to be served so quickly.
The other diners and I had to wait a few minutes before our orders were prepared, but it wasn’t as long as I have waited at other fast food restaurants that weren’t even busy.
As I sit writing this, I am enjoying a Big Box meal complete with cinnamon twists. Maybe not the healthiest lunch, but a good one! I am happy to report Taco Bell is open for business.