Cantina Bell boosts results
Of course, Taco Bell did promote the product heavily. There was the free taco give away for every base stolen during the World Series. A TV ad used customers’ Instagram images of the taco, and positive customer Tweets were posted on billboards in New York’s Times Square. In addition, the chain airlifted a taco truck to the small town of Bethel, Alaska, and gave away an estimated 10,000 Doritos Locos Tacos to residents.
But the Doritos Locos Taco was not the only smart move by Taco Bell this year, said West. Taco Bell followed up with the debut of the Cantina Bell menu in July, which includes more fast-casual-positioned offerings developed by celebrity Lorena Garcia. At the end of the third quarter, the Cantina Bell menu accounted for about 5 percent of the menu mix.
“We’ve seen strong check growth in our data, but also more transactions,” said West. “But it wasn’t just about the Doritos Locos Tacos, it was also about Cantina Bell. They both win, or they get first and second place.”
The Cantina Bell additions, West argued, were more of a category game changer, in part because it has stolen some “fringe” customers from Chipotle Mexican Grill, who might be swayed by the lower price and faster service at Taco Bell for a grilled bowl.
The Taco Bell/Chipotle comparison is similar to when McDonald’s introduced its specialty coffee line, West said. McDonald’s didn’t steal Starbucks’ core customer, but the quick-service chain’s coffee was “in the ballpark” for aspirational Starbucks customers. Some will choose coffee at McDonald’s simply because it’s “faster and cheaper and more convenient than driving an extra mile to find a Starbucks.”
Other restaurant chains have made notable menu moves this year as well. Burger King’s pulled pork sandwich, sweet potato fries and frozen lemonades helped build same-store sales 1.6 percent for the U.S. and Canada in the third quarter, as well as the co-branded mini Cinnabon treats designed to inspire incremental sales.
Wendy’s ongoing menu upgrades have given the fast-food brand a more premium positioning that can compete both with traditional arch rival McDonald’s and Burger King, but also with “better burger” players like Five Guy’s Burgers and Fries and Smashburger, argued Kelley.
Domino’s new pan pizza, introduced in September, could be a game changer, said West, following the successful launch of artisan pizzas and cheesy bread late last year. “Domino’s has been rolling out very strong new products,” said West.
Still, he added, “At the end of the day, I think Taco Bell will win [most successful product launch] this year.”
Contact Lisa Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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