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Restaurants’ new dishes ran the gamut in 2012, as chains worked to keep their core customers engaged while also branching out to entice new ones. The result: A wide variety of dishes that showcase premium ingredients, indulgent comfort foods, healthful dishes, affordable proteins and exotic flavors.
Starbucks tried to expand its appeal over the course of the year, first with the introduction of a “blonde” roast of coffee at the beginning of the year, for people who prefer lighter brews, followed in the summer by a line of Refreshers — fruity energy drinks in Very Berry and Cool Lime flavors that got an extra kick from a flavorless coffee extract — for people who didn’t like coffee at all.
Taco Bell went after a more premium demographic with its introduction of the Cantina Bell line of burritos, bowls and the like that retailed for around $5 each and was promoted by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia. More successfully, it aimed for the heart of its 18-34-year-old male demographic with its smash hit Doritos Locos Tacos line, that served its signature taco meat in a shell made of the beloved snack chip. More than 200 million of the tacos have reportedly been sold.
Toward the end of the year, as Taco Bell began testing Cool Ranch and spicy “Flamas” versions of the Doritos Locos Tacos, it also introduced two new desserts — 99-cent churros and a $1.29 chocolate chip cookie sandwich filled with vanilla cream. It also expanded its new Cantina Bell line with items including XXL Steak Nachos with a triple portion of Garcia’s braised steak.