HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — At a taco shop in Southern California, milkshakes are served in mason jars and a chalkboard menu lists “The 1%er” made with lobster meat.

The logo is a pink skull and instead of buzzers, customers are given license plates so servers can identify them when bringing out orders.

Nowhere is it evident that the U.S. Taco Co. is an outpost of a chain better known for cheesy gut bombs: Taco Bell.

Major companies are testing whether it would pay to tuck away their world famous logos in favor of more hipster guises: PepsiCo, for instance, introduced a craft soda called Caleb’s last year and McDonald’s opened a cafe that lists lentils and eggplant on its menu. The stealth efforts reflect the pressures on the country’s biggest food makers, which are contending with the surging popularity of smaller brands that position themselves as decidedly less corporate.

For big food companies, the low-key efforts are a way feel out changing tastes and cozy up to new customers, particularly those in their 20s and 30s. Among that age group, marketing experts say there’s a growing preference for qualities like “real” and “authentic.” Additionally, millennials aren’t as impressed by big brands when it comes to food, and instead take pride in discovering and sharing new places and products with friends on social media networks.

As such, Allen Adamson of Landor Associates, a brand consulting firm, said companies should keep the images for their latest efforts smaller and more niche: “You don’t want to scream from the mountain top that you’re Pepsi.”

Unlike Pepsi cola – which has suffered sales declines since 1998, according to Beverage Digest – PepsiCo’s Caleb’s Kola comes in a glass bottle and is sweetened with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

There are no signs the drink is from the maker of Mountain Dew and Gatorade, and the bottles bear the words “Honor In Craft.”

McDonald’s also decided not to use its name recognition when it opened The Corner late last year.

The restaurant in Australia has a minimalist white exterior and serves dishes like Moroccan roast chicken, chipotle pulled pork and lentil and eggplant salad. The only sign it’s owned by McDonald’s is the “McCafe” in small print at the bottom of the restaurant logo.

McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary said in an email the location is a “learning lab” for testing “new and different food and beverages never before seen in our restaurants.”

For its part, Taco Bell said in an emailed statement that U.S. Taco’s opening was the result of a “segmentation study” that found some people just don’t want to eat at traditional fast-food chains.

So instead of trying to win them over with Taco Bell, a team known as “intrapreneurs” at the company came up with an entirely separate concept, which charges about $3 to $4 per taco.

The shop in Huntington Beach, California caught the attention of Christina Kaoh, a 30-year-old research coordinator who was in the area paddle boarding with friends.

“I figured it’s going to be a hip version of tacos,” Kaoh said.

She only learned it was owned by Taco Bell after reading an article that mentioned the link in Mother Jones. Kaoh said she wouldn’t go back since she tries to support independent establishments, and didn’t particularly enjoy the food.

Still, the manufacturing of authenticity can get clumsy.

Yum Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, as well as KFC and Pizza Hut, last year opened a Vietnamese sandwich shop in Dallas, Texas. The shop’s red star logo – a common symbol of communism – immediately upset the local Vietnamese community.