Taco Bell Rings Up New ‘Value’ Proposition with $1 Cravings Menu

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Taco Bell is trying to re-establish its “value” chops with America’s fast feeders with a new “$1 Cravings Menu” that re-tethers the brand to the magical single-greenback pricepoint; it’s being tested now in Kansas City and Sacramento, and a national rollout this summer is in the cards.

The brand also promises more limited-time offerings such as the 99-cent Beefy Crunch Burrito that it is bringing back on May 23.

Taco Bell marketers believe the chain is getting squeezed out of consumers’ minds by all the added buzz in the QSR industry these days about new “value-menu” plays by McDonald’s and other giants, as the entire business struggles to get the cash-strapped American consumer back in an eating-out mood.

“There’s been a lot of press on a lot of brands choosing to bring out value menus,” Brian Niccol, Taco Bell’s chief markerting and innovation officer, said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. “We think about that completely differently: Shame on us if what we have to do is create a ‘value menu,’ because at Taco Bell, in the end, the whole menu is ‘value.'”[more]

Niccol had a point. Taco Bell had always been known for really cheap, filling eats. But lately, as its new products have become more focal—such as the highly successful Doritos Locos Tacos line and the fresh-Mex-fighting Cantina Bell initiative—attention has drifted from Taco Bell’s traditional value role. Part of that, Niccol conceded, has been the chain’s fault. Its value answer a few years ago was the Why Pay More? initiative, which featured a number of items at price points as low as 79 cents. Now, admitted Chris Brandt, Taco Bell’s vice president of brand marketing, those items are priced “mainly north of a dollar.”

Cravings—a concept that Taco Bell developed over 18 months before the current test—is supposed to be the biggest answer to regaining value top-of-mind with consumers. It includes 12 choices for just $1, such as Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadillas, Churros, Triple Layer Nachos, Beef Crunchitos and Beefy Nacho Loaded Grillers.

Taco Bell is also promoting its “Happier Hour” on a seasonal basis, the period between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. when it makes beverages and snack items available for $1. And, the two executives asserted, the Caninta Bell menu also offers a sort of value to consumers who want a fresh-Mex take a la Qdoba or Chipotle but for around $5 instead of $8.

“The consumer is constantly evolving, so we have to as well,” Brandt said. “There’s no finish line to value.”

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