Taco Bell is working backward as it uses technology to sell more food. First came a mobile app, and now the Mexican-inspired chain has redesigned its website.

The new site, which went live across the U.S. Monday morning, enables consumers to place and pay for orders in addition to finding nearby restaurants and looking up menu information. It can be found at a new URL: ta.co.

Taco Bell, owned by Yum! Brands Inc., is considered a technology leader among fast-food chains. Its mobile app, released about a year ago, has been downloaded about 3.7 million times. The program allows customers to customize their burritos, place orders and pay on their mobile phones. Taco Bell has said that customers using the app spend more than $10 on an average order, about 20 percent more than those who order in person. Taco Bell is betting those higher sales numbers will extend to customers using the new website.

"To stay relevant in culture now requires us to innovate in technology just much as we’ve innovated in food," said Brian Niccol, chief executive officer of the chain responsible for Doritos Locos Tacos and Cap’n Crunch Delights. "What we’re driving toward is redefining the Taco Bell experience to go beyond the traditional drive-thru, dining-room experience."

Niccol said the chain’s website gets about 5 million visitors a month, and the typical user researches food items and looks for restaurant locations. Offering the ability to order and pay was a natural next step, Niccol said.

Learning Lab

Taco Bell built its app first because it wanted to reach loyal customers who are digitally connected. Niccol said the company used the mobile app as a "learning lab" and is now expanding the technology across the restaurant system. At a new location in San Francisco that opened last week, customers can now pick up food ordered on their phones at a "mobile pick-up window." Taco Bell also is testing a digital ordering kiosk at a location near its headquarters in Irvine, California.

"Once we understood how it served the heavy users, we could figure out how to use that technology in other ways," Niccol said.

With Taco Bell’s website improved, the company will turn to offering delivery, Niccol said. That way, customers can order, pay and sit back and wait for their food to show up. Taco Bell is testing delivery with an on-demand company called DoorDash at about 200 restaurants, primarily in Texas and California.

"That’s the future," Niccol said.

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