All it took was a helicopter, a kitchen truck and 10,000 tacos to turn hurt feelings and disappointment of a tiny community on remote Alaska tundra into more good will than any fast food company could ever buy.
For three months rumors went viral in the tiny community of Bethel, Alaska that it was going to get its first cheap Mexican food emporium, in fact, its first fast food restaurant of any kind, aside from a Subway, which opened last year.
Bethel, a community of 5,560 people – 40 miles from the Bering Sea and 400 air miles from Anchorage – can only be reached by boat and, when the weather is good, by air.
In May, official-looking yellow fliers started popping up on light poles and bulletin boards, and teasers on community websites and blogs announced that a Taco Bell outlet would be up and serving by the 4th of July.
The hope of a few new jobs opportunities was as exciting to many of the townsfolk as the promise of the spicy food. But soon it was determined that the phone number on the fliers and announcements was bogus.
By mid-June, KYUK, the local radio station, was broadcasting the somber news that Taco Bell officials said the rumored opening was news to them
But on July 3, a Bell helicopter dangling a black truck on a 100-foot-long cable, gently lowered its surprising haul into a clear area on the edge of Bethel. Taco Bell officials said that aboard was the makings of 10,000 tacos – almost 1,000 pounds of beef, 400-pounds of sour cream and nearly 1,000-pounds of tomatoes, shredded lettuce, grated cheddar cheese and sauce.
People rushed to the truck and waited as the team of cooks assembled – not the usual old taco but – the company’s just-released Doritos Locos Taco, which is a regular taco, but wrapped in a shell made from Dorito chips.
According to The Associated Press, Taco Bell Chief Executive Greg Creed said that “if we can feed people in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can feed people in Bethel.”
Unfortunately, the chain says it has no plans to open a permanent restaurant in Bethel. However, a company website now says ” We’re discovering America. Tell us why the Taco Bell truck should stop in your town.”