Taco Bell has been marketing itself for a long time as an inexpensive place to eat rather than as a quality eating experience and now it turns out that those who went the other direction, such as Chipotle, are actually winning the consumer dollars. Motley Fool reports that Taco Bell has closed down 1,000 of its locations since 2000. Even with that, the restaurant makes up 60% of restaurant behemoth Yum! Brands’ profits in the United States.
Yum!’s attentions are focused on expanding Pizza Hut and KFC in China, but concern for Taco Bell has some trying to figure out how it can rebrand. One of the main reasons it needs to refresh its image is because the restaurant is still reeling from a lawsuit that alleged that the restaurant used meat that was only 35% beef, even though the accusations were later withdrawn, as Taco Bell president Greg Creed announced on YouTube.
While Taco Bell — with hopes high for a Super Bowl bump — has been suffering, rivals like Chipotle are booming.
“From 2007 to 2011, Chipotle's sales have more than doubled, and at company-owned locations of Jack in the Box's Qdoba they were up 58% from 2009 to 2011,” Motley Fool reports. Let one thing be clear, though. Those numbers don’t mean those guys are winning any kind of battle for consumer dollars. Nay! It is an opportunity, of course.
Competition from "Chipotle is an opportunity,” said Creed, according to Motley Fool, “because what it's done has expanded the trial and usage of Mexican food. It's got people to believe they can pay $8 for a bowl or a burrito." The chain's CMO, Brian Niccol, reassures Nation's Restaurant News that the Bell has no interest in becoming Chipotle.
Creed is of the belief that his company can make very similar food for $5, and he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
The company has hired chef Lorena Garcia “to help develop a new set of menu items, known as the Cantina Bell menu, that will include Chipotle-style offerings such as black beans, cilantro rice, and corn salsa,” the Fool notes.
Taco Bell's Cantina Bell menu touts fresher ingredients, while the chain's "First Meal" menu that's now rolling out opens up a new daypart (breakfast) just as Starbucks is opening up its non-traditional daypart (evenings) with beer and wine sales.
The First Meal menu also boosts other brands: Cinnabon, Seattle's Best Coffee, Tropicana orange juice and Johnsonville sausages.
Taco Bell can’t afford to totally reconstruct its restaurants or image to recreate itself. However, “with more than 5,000 locations domestically, Taco Bell has nearly triple the number of locations of Chipotle, Qdoba, and Baja Fresh combined,” Motley Fool reports.