The fast-food leader hasn’t slowed down for the holidays like its key rivals McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King.
The Christmas season is a busy time for fast-food chains. People are out shopping and they’re looking for a quick, comforting meal so they can get back to gift buying.
Most of the major fast-food chains limit their menu innovation during this period to focus on serving hoards of hungry people. McDonald’s (MCD) – Get Free Report, for example, has its SZN of Savings promotion which focuses on offering deals rather than adding new menu items.
Restaurant Brands International (QSR) – Get Free Report Burger King has followed a similar path while Wendy’s (WEN) – Get Free Report did add a Peppermint Frosty to its menu. That’s a smart play for the season by the square burger maker, but it’s not exactly a major innovation.
Yum Brands (YUM) – Get Free Report Taco Bell, however, never stops innovating or changing its menu. It just added Salsa Verde to its menu nationwide — something it has not offered since 2016 — and it’s testing two new versions of its popular Mexican Pizza for potential rollout in 2023.
That’s a lot, and for most chains, it would be enough. But Taco Bell lives up to its “Live Mas” slogan and a lot is never enough for the chain.
Taco Bell Tests New Chicken
Taco Bell endlessly reinvents its menu, sometimes pushing it to places customers would not expect. That was how the company turned its Nacho Fries from a novelty to a permanent menu item. It sort of threw the product out there (albeit with a large ad campaign) as a limited-time offer then brought it back, tried different versions, and ultimately made it a staple.
The chain also offered chicken wings for a single week in 2022 and it’s rumored to be bringing back that promotion in the new year. Wings, however, won’t be Taco Bell’s only chicken surprise in 2023 as the chain has been testing a variety of new chicken offerings, Chewboom.com reports:
The $2 Chicken Enchilada Burrito features grilled chicken, seasoned rice, red sauce, a three-cheese blend, and cool reduced-fat sour cream wrapped in a warm flour tortilla.The $2 Chicken Poblano Caesar Burrito includes a warm, flour tortilla with grilled chicken, crunchy fiesta tortilla chips, roasted poblano Caesar sauce, shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, and diced tomatoes.The $2 Cheesy Chipotle Chicken Burrito features grilled chicken, seasoned rice, Creamy Chipotle sauce, a three-cheese blend, and reduced-fat sour cream wrapped in a warm flour tortilla.
All three burritos are only being offered in select North Carolina locations, now through January 4.
Taco Bell Has a Strong Year
Menu innovation has helped Taco Bell continue to grow its sales and its store count. Yum Brands CEO David Gibbs talked about it during the chain’s third-quarter earnings call.
“As we enter the fourth quarter, we’re even more excited about the momentum in Taco Bell U.S. with the relaunch of the Mexican pizza, which occurred in mid-September,” Gibbs said. “At Taco Bell International, system sales grew 26%, driven by 30% unit growth and 5% same-store sales growth. In the third quarter, five markets delivered double-digit system sales growth, marking another milestone in Taco Bell’s international expansion journey.”
Gibbs also explained that innovation is not the only driver. Offering a strong value has been a key for the chain as well.
“And the cravings menu in Taco Bell is the same thing where we’re offering burritos for $2. So as far as the consumer environment for us and our industry and for our brands, which are particularly well suited to navigate it, it looks good,” he added.