Taco Bell's Doritos Locos tacos have been a blockbuster – there's no other way to describe it. With 100 million units sold in ten weeks (that's 100,000 Doritos Locos tacos sold every week!), their success with that simple concept is unparalleled to the point where other franchises are jealous and trying to get on board with Doritos-inspired creations of their own. Snappy morsels like this are clearly Taco Bell’s calling. So of course they are following its success with a 180° about-face into upscale "fresh fare" in the vein of Chipotle or Qdoba.
According to Ad Age, Taco Bell has been testing out its new Cantina menu in Louisville, KY and Bakersfield, CA but is now preparing to take it nationwide on July 5. The menu, marketed with commercials featuring chef Lorena Garcia, aims for “upscale and fresh” with burritos and bowls filled with such items as black beans, “fire-roasted” corn salsa, cilantro rice, and marinated chicken.
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Wait a minute: a burrito or burrito bowl filled with cilantro-infused rice, black beans, and corn salsa, you say? We can’t quite put our finger on it, but that sounds awfully familiar. Oh wait, we can put our finger on it – that’s Chipotle’s menu. Only, whereas a burrito or bowl at Chipotle goes for around $6-7, Taco Bell plans to sell its fresh Cantina items for under $5. Ad Age also reports that Taco Bell’s Cantina menu features such snack items as chips and guacamole at dollar menu prices.
We’re Taco Bell fans – but what we’re not fans of is following the competition instead of doing your own thing and doing it well. It’s a trap that Burger King sometimes falls into, and now Taco Bell seems to also be feeling this pressure, something that first became apparent when it switched up its slogan from “think outside the bun” to “live más.” Taco Bell: you are not Chipotle, and there’s nothing wrong with that – you both have plenty of fans and satisfy different demographics, and there’s no need to compensate for that.
But, with all of that said, Taco Bell could still have a success on its hands if it finds a way to make these new menu items its own and not simply a knock-off of another chain’s concept. It will be interesting to see if the public responds to the Cantina menu with equal fervor, or keeps waiting with bated breath for the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos.