Taco Bell designer and ex-president Robert McKay dies at 86

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File). FILE - This Dec. 15, 2016, file photo shows a Taco Bell restaurant in Metairie, La. Robert L. McKay, who designed the first Taco Bell restaurant and with founder Glenn Bell turned it from a quirky food stand into a fast... (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File). FILE - This Dec. 15, 2016, file photo shows a Taco Bell restaurant in Metairie, La. Robert L. McKay, who designed the first Taco Bell restaurant and with founder Glenn Bell turned it from a quirky food stand into a fast...

TUSTIN, Calif. (AP) - Robert L. McKay, who designed the first Taco Bell restaurant and with founder Glen Bell turned it from a quirky food stand into a fast-food empire, has died.

McKay, 86, died last week from cancer in Orange County, California, said his son Rob McKay.

Bell opened his first Taco Bell in Downey, California, in 1962, selling hard-shell tacos and other Mexican-inspired fast food. McKay, an architect, designed the Spanish-style arched and tiled building that became the chain's signature look.

Intrigued by the fast-food concept, McKay closed his architectural firm and joined Taco Bell, eventually becoming president.

He helped familiarize American consumers with then-exotic Mexican dishes like tacos and burritos by introducing menus with phonetic pronunciations of food items and descriptions of each product's ingredients.

McKay embraced the concept of franchising, which led to rapid expansion of the company.

Taco Bell had around 900 restaurants when it was sold to PepsiCo in 1978 for $125 million in stock.

"Still today, Taco Bell's architecture of the 60's and 70's remains as one of the most recognizable and iconic designs of the era," Taco Bell said in a statement Friday. "Not only did McKay play a significant role in the exterior look and feel of Taco Bell, his work as a close friend to Glen and eventual company president helped drive much of the growth and success of the global brand we know today."

After retiring from Taco Bell in the early 1980s, McKay went on to finance other businesses that invested in technology, consumer products, real estate and banking, his family said.

McKay is survived by his wife, Meagan; his sons, Rob and John; and five grandchildren.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 5 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login, create an account or subscribe to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."