Bell, who'd had Parkinson's disease since 1985, died Sunday at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, the company announced. No cause of death was given.
FOR THE RECORD:
Glen Bell obituary: The obituary of Taco Bell founder Glen W. Bell Jr. in Tuesday's Section A said he died Sunday. Bell died Saturday. —
"We changed the eating habits of an entire nation," Bell said in his 1999 biography, "Taco Titan: The Glen Bell Story."
That he did.
When post-World War II Americans began to realize they could no longer survive without cheaply purchased, quickly delivered hamburgers, the Southern California born-and-bred Bell looked for another simple staple for the masses.
He chose the taco, which he first sold in 1951 for 19 cents each at a drive-in in San Bernardino.
Eventually, Bell coaxed multiethnic palates across the country into salivating for his tacos and later additions of burritos, tostadas, frijoles and chili burgers.
PepsiCo purchased Taco Bell in 1978 for $125 million and eventually spun off its restaurants into Tricon Global Restaurants Inc., now known as Yum Brands. Taco Bell serves more than 36 million customers each week in more than 5,600 U.S. locations.
Over the decades, Bell developed what he called his "recipes for success" -- some 60 homilies outlined in his biography. His first three rules were the formula for his restaurant chains:
* You build a business one customer at a time;
* Find the right product, then find a way to mass-produce it;
* An innovative product will set you apart.
"I'm an entrepreneur, not an administrator," he said. "Taco Bell prospered because I recognized my limitations, hired professional managers to make up for them, and knew when to let go."
Glen William Bell Jr. was born Sept. 3, 1923, in Lynwood to an often out-of-work construction worker father and resourceful mother faring worse financially than their own parents. Bell virtually grew up selling produce to help the struggling family.
When he was 5, the family moved to a small farm in Oregon, and as the Depression came on, he started selling cottage cheese door to door.
In 1934, the family moved to a 10-acre mountainside orchard, owned by Bell's maternal grandmother, south of San Bernardino in Cedar Springs. The family, now with five children, was more or less self-sufficient with the orchard, a garden and chickens. Again, young Glen became the salesman, peddling eggs, apples and flowers.
Halfway through high school, he hopped freight trains and roamed from Iowa to Washington seeking work, sometimes on relatives' farms. He spent a summer in Washington with a great aunt, learning to bake blackberry pies and selling them as Mrs. Dye's Homemade Pies. They split a profit of $3,000, and young Bell decided he wanted to own his own food stand.