Taco Bell never likes to leave the spotlight.
That’s why the chain nearly endlessly tinkers with its menu, bringing beloved items back while rolling out new ones.
In addition, the fast-food giant has never been bound by any rules or the traditional conventions of Mexican food. When rivals like McDonald’s have tried to expand into pizza, pasta, and even tacos and burritos, it has generally been a spectacular failure.
McDonald’s’ (MCD) – Get Free Report attempts to expand beyond the traditional confines of a burger chain’s menu have more often ended up on “worst” lists than have succeeded. In reality, aside from Snack Wraps, which are a variant on a taco/burrito, the chain has failed in every effort to break beyond what customers expect.
That has not been the case for Yum Brands’ (YUM) – Get Free Report Taco Bell. Over the past few years the chain has pushed the boundaries of customer expectations. That effort has included offering chicken wings, its own spin on french fries, chicken nuggets, and tacos that used fried chicken as the tortilla.
Taco Bell has trained its customers to expect anything, including flavors that traditionally aren’t offered in Mexican cuisine. Not every item the chain offers, however, breaks with tradition. Sometimes the Mexican eatery simply offers a new twist on familiar flavors.
That’s what it’s doing to kick off the new year.
Taco Bell goes back to basics
Taco Bell has excelled at using familiar ingredients in new combinations. Add a new protein, a different cheese, or maybe a new sauce to some classic items and you have something new without adding a lot of complication to the company’s kitchens.
That’s important in an age where fast-food chains must balance menu innovation with production times. In a digital-first era where consumers want endless customization along with quick service, keeping things simple matters.
The Mexican chain’s latest new menu item, the 3-Cheese Chicken Flatbread Melt, speaks to that simplicity. It’s an easy-to-understand new menu item that’s easy to build and is instantly familiar to customers.
“Taco Bell’s 3-Cheese Chicken Flatbread Melt features grilled white-meat chicken, Creamy Chipotle sauce, and a blend of cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey pepper jack, folded in a warm, pillowy flatbread,” Brand Eating reported.
The chain has set a suggested price of $2.29 for the new item, but that may vary based on location. It should begin appearing on menus on Jan. 9.
And while this is technically a new item, Taco Bell once sold a square version of a Chicken Flatbread Melt that was the same product on a differently shaped piece of bread.
Taco Bell plans more chicken and rewards
Yum Brands CEO David Gibbs spoke about Taco Bell’s recipe for success during his company’s third-quarter-earnings call.
“A key component of the magic formula is mass occasions, the brand’s personal expression of building new category entry points,” he said. “One such example is the growth in chicken offerings, which the team plans to further expand with the launch of its Cantina menu.”
The chain plans to roll out the new menu in 2024 but has not set a specific date. Taco Bell also wants to entice more customers to join its digital loyalty program.
“Another component of this brand’s success is digital, which includes loyalty,” he added. “While at Taco Bell, loyalty customer already spends 40% more per year than a traditional customer. The consumer feedback we’ve received indicates that we can do an even better job at creating more obvious and exciting ways to both earn and redeem rewards.”
The chain plans major improvements to its loyalty program in the new year.
“Taco Bell will enhance its loyalty program and provide easier access across channels to earn and redeem points,” Gibbs said. “Additionally, members will enjoy more exclusive experiences, including more digital innovation, early access to new products, and loyalty-enabled experiences.”