Following in the footsteps of rivals like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and KFC, Taco Bell is getting ready to make some big changes. In what is quickly amounting to a fast food arms race of sorts, Taco Bell’s corporate overlords at Yum! Brands have decided that they won’t be caught with their proverbial pants down, and is letting their stalwart burrito-slinging behemoth off the chain for one huge addition to its offerings.
Taco Bell is going to start delivering. This year.
That’s the news making its way out of Taco Bell camp, anyway, as it was reported by Restaurant News recently. The main goal of the proposed service would be to further differentiate itself from competing brands, and bulk up its business arsenal in the face of fierce competition from new rivals, like Chipotle.
“I know a lot of people are talking about creating modern fast-food brands, and a lot are trying. But we’re already on our way,” Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol told Restaurant News. “We’re continuing to move Taco Bell into its own category.”
The biggest barrier from pulling the trigger on full implementation at this point, according to Niccol, is having a solid logistical plan in place. But that doesn’t mean that he, along with other executives, haven’t heard the call for such services from customers.
“Even though it’s the No. 1 request from consumers, we have to make sure we can give them an experience that’s consistent with Taco Bell, and that’s what we’re working through,” he said. “We have to figure it out, and I can tell you right now we don’t have it figured out.”
If that line of reasoning sounds familiar, it’s pretty much the same thing Starbucks executives said prior to releasing plans for their own delivery service. Though we don’t know yet how Taco Bell plans to take on delivery, Starbucks will be experimenting with two different models — one in New York City, and the other in Seattle — to see which is most effective. Nationwide roll-out of the coffee giant’s delivery service is expected later.
Much like Starbucks, Taco Bell’s delivery plans are coming on the heels of the successful launch of its mobile app, which allows customers to order ahead of time, and further customize their orders. Mobile apps, along with delivery options, seem to be the next wave of offerings that are going to soon be offered by all kinds of fast food restaurants, as they all try to improve their game to keep pace with the rise of “fast casual” competitors.
Frankly, Taco Bell’s food is considerably lackluster compared to that from other Mexican chains, most prominently Chipotle, but it does have a big advantage in one key area: price. Where else can you find a menu loaded with Mexican options, many for less than $1? The problem is that as the younger diners that make up the target demographic for many fast food restaurants get older, and increase their collective earnings, they’re willing to spend more for food of a higher quality.
How does Taco Bell hope to disrupt that? By bringing the food straight to your home. And it just might work — as long as Taco Bell can figure out a system that doesn’t tack on a huge fee. Again, pricing is the company’s big advantage, and if it squanders that, it’s unclear whether delivery will help or not.
As the Taco Bell app and future delivery options gel with consumers, it’s obvious that the company is willing to take some big risks to win back consumers. Just take its new breakfast menu, for example. Who would’ve thought that by taking their traditional menu items, and somehow turning them into breakfast foods, that customers would buy in? While it’s not really clear whether it has been a success or not, it certainly has gotten people talking — and given the chain a foothold in the expanding market for breakfast foods and coffee.
With that said, Taco Bell’s delivery service may be an answer to the prayers offered up to the fast food gods by many, but until the company can actually figure out how to do it, it is a project still in flux.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger