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While the quick-service Taco Bell has already dipped into Chipotle territory with its more-premium Cantina Bell menu developed by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia last year, this is the first time the brand has attempted a direct challenge within the fast-casual arena.

Taco Bell parent Yum! Brands Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., appears to see the fast-casual space as an opportunity.

Last year, Yum began testing a fast-casual variant of the KFC brand called KFC Eleven in Louisville.

Earlier this month, Yum opened a fast-casual concept called Super Chix, offering “the last true chicken sandwich,” near the company’s Plano, Texas, facility that houses the global headquarters of sister brand Pizza Hut.

The innovation team there is also working on another fast-casual concept called Banh Shop, scheduled to open soon in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Super Chix and Banh Shop, however, have been described as potential growth brands for overseas markets specifically.

Creed said U.S. Taco Co. is being developed as a domestic brand, though it could also travel overseas, where TV shows like Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” are raising awareness of classic American dishes.

Still, Creed was reluctant to give specifics on growth targets.

“We’re going to open a restaurant and see what happens,” he said. “I’d love to see 1,000 or 1,500 of these, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

Meanwhile, the 6,000-unit Taco Bell will remain on its aggressive path of doubling sales from $7 billion last year to $14 billion by 2022, and adding about 2,000 restaurants in the U.S.

The new concept won’t take a dollar from Taco Bell, according to Creed. “We will have two incredibly well-positioned brands,” he said.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout