Industry News | February 25, 2014 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Taco Bell Breakfast Menu Marks Its Largest National Rollout

Waffle Taco Taco Bell
Email this story Email this story
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Taco Bell fans will soon have the chance to rise and “live más” when the Mexican-inspired quick serve launches its breakfast menu nationally on March 27.

“We want to win in all dayparts,” said Taco Bell president Brian Niccol in a teleconference on Monday, February 25. “We’re world famous for late night, or Fourth Meal; we’re world famous for dinner; we’re world famous for happy hour; we’re world famous for lunch. There’s one daypart we’re not world famous for yet—and I would say yet—and that’s breakfast.”

Though the Yum! Brands subsidiary has tested several items that make an appearance on the finalized national menu in West Coast markets, this is the first time Taco Bell restaurants will operate in the morning daypart on a national scale. The expanded operations means longer hours, 13 new menu items, nine new ingredients, and at least three new employees per Taco Bell unit, said chief marketing officer Chris Brandt, who joined Niccol in the teleconference.

The breakfast menu may not be extensive—for the sake of operational simplicity, Brandt said—but it does deliver morning staples with a signature Taco Bell twist.

“In general, one of the things I think has lacked in breakfast is innovation and putting a little twist on the ordinary. That’s one of the things that we’re very good at,” Niccol said. “You’re going to see breakthrough products that, frankly, nobody has seen at breakfast in the last 40 years.”

At the core of the new menu are items like the A.M. Crunchwrap, made with eggs, cheese, hash browns, and a choice of bacon, sausage, or steak grilled inside a portable hexagonal tortilla; Breakfast Burritos and A.M. Grilled Tacos; Cinnabon Delights; a Sausage Flatbread Melt; and the Waffle Taco, featuring eggs, cheese, and a protein enveloped in a waffle.

Portability was key to the development of the new menu items, and platforms such as the Crunchwrap already existed in Taco Bell’s portfolio. Though prices have yet to be announced, the brand’s executives focused on a balanced formula of size and value, Niccol said.

Taco Bell will also offer coffee to accompany its new breakfast items. “Great coffee, we think, is essential,” Brandt said. “We’ve worked with the Rainforest Alliance and have Rainforest Alliance–certified coffee. We think we can deliver a great coffee experience.”

Gearing up for the March 27 launch, Taco Bell will unveil pieces of its largest marketing campaign in brand history, beginning February 27 with in-store POP materials. TV and radio ads will follow, along with the digital and social media marketing the brand has become known for among consumers, Niccol said. A mobile platform is also in the works.

“We think we can take that to an extraordinary level with mobile ordering and a mobile platform that sets up a loyalty program that’s never been seen before and never been experienced before, that ties into people’s lifestyle, not just punch tickets,” Niccol said.

The launch of breakfast is one piece of a bigger picture in which Taco Bell increasingly aims to position itself as a lifestyle brand, Niccol said.

“We’re getting people to not just buy Taco Bell, but we’re getting people to buy into Taco Bell, and I think that’s a very important piece of the puzzle,” he said. “If we get people to buy into brand Taco Bell, they behave differently, and that’s whether it’s the team member or the customer.”

In 2012, Taco Bell set a goal to double its business from $7 billion to $14 billion over the course of two years, Niccol said. While the brand opened more than 100 stores in 2013, they were only able to rise to $8 billion, he said. The morning daypart, along with an aggressive growth strategy to open more than 200 stores in rural, suburban, and even urban areas in 2014, could put the brand closer to its goal.

By Tamara Omazic