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Taco Bell trying 'First Meal' breakfast and fresh 'Cantina' menus

January 20, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu
  • One of the offerings in Taco Bell's new breakfast menu -- a sausage wrap
One of the offerings in Taco Bell's new breakfast menu -- a sausage… (Taco Bell )

Taco Bell is hoping that this is the year for better things, with a new “First Meal” breakfast menu, meals that challenge Chipotle Mexican Grill’s healthier offerings and other updates to erase its 2011 sales slump.

The Irvine-based fast-food chain, which serves mostly Mexican-style meals, will roll out an 11-item roundup of “classic American” breakfast options next week in 750 restaurants in 10 states, including California.

The “First Meal” will include Cinnabon Delights, breakfast burritos, Johnsonville sausage and egg wraps, Tropicana orange juice, Seattle’s Best Coffee and more.

The breakfast launch is part of Taco Bell’s recovery regimen after its sales tanked after a quickly dismissed lawsuit questioning the quality of its seasoned ground beef. In the third quarter, Taco Bell’s parent Yum Brands Inc. said the chain’s same-store sales fell 2% after sliding 5% in the second quarter.

“This is not an acceptable result for us,” said David C. Novak, Yum’s chief executive, in a conference call with analysts. “The team is working incredibly hard to get Taco Bell back on a growth track.”

The chain also trying to catch up to competitors such as Wendy’s that have already taken advantage of growing demand for the first meal of the day. Consumers are increasingly swinging by restaurants to pick up breakfast and often don’t care about high prices, according to research group Technomic. At quick-service eateries, morning menus account for 92% of overall traffic growth in the last five years.

But Taco Bell is also branching out in other directions.

There’s the Doritos Locos Tacos – with a shell made from the popular chips – that Taco Bell plans to launch nationally in a bid to “reinvent the taco.”

The chain is also testing a “Cantina Bell” menu at select restaurants, including in Bakersfield, that could position it as a stronger competitor to fast casual Mexican chains. The offerings, designed in part by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, will feature grilled corn salsa, black beans, marinated chicken and other new ingredients.

But Brian Niccol, Taco Bell’s chief marketing and innovation officer, told Nation’s Restaurant News that his company “has no interest in being Chipotle.”

“There are some forums and flavors that have been introduced that we have every right to participate in, like burrito bowls,” he said. “We can do that and be a better value.”

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