Yes, the Doritos Locos Taco is key to the turnaround of one of America’s biggest chains, Taco Bell.
At least that’s what Taco Bell chief executive Greg Creed told investors and analysts yesterday.
To be fair, the beleaguered burrito and taco concept needs some positive news after a tough 2011, when a consumer lawsuit claimed the seasoned beef it used wasn’t all beef.
The lawsuit was eventually dropped, but the damage was done. A large percentage of Americans said, “No queremos Taco Bell,” and sales thus far have reflected that.
As reported by Nation’s Restaurant News, the chain told an investor conference in New York that the suit distracted it from developing new and interesting products that would have generated more sales. Now, they say, the product pipeline is full and ready to pour fourth Amerexican food like we’ve never seen.
Such new items include a Chef’s Signature line of “upgraded tacos” and other menu items, the reformulation of key ingredients such as its beans, pico de gallo, marinades, seasonings and meats, as well as the expansion of “First Meal,” its breakfast program set to spread to 800 locations in the western U.S. in early 2012. (The chain has 5,600 total locations.)
To provide a little insight into the significance of Doritos Locos: it somehow improves transaction speeds by 12 seconds. Now, while you may doubt that consumers notice their orders arrive 12 seconds faster, if you multiply that number by several hundred transactions a day and multiply it again by 365 days in a year, you begin to appreciate how many more customers get through the line and pay up.
The Nation’s Restaurant News story (I’d link it, but it’s subscription only) said the chain has buy-in on its plans from the majority of its most influential franchisees, which is good news. Sister brand KFC can only dream of having such friendly relations with its franchisees.
The PR mill was grinding at a frenzied pace during conference as officials talked about how consumers view eating at Taco Bell as “an experience” and not just a “fuel” stop.
Officials also dubbed their improved products a “Chef’s Signature line,” as if there were any real chefs at work anywhere in the Taco Bell system. Dietitians and food scientists? You bet. But chefs? Probably not.
But perhaps most interesting was this quote from David Novak, Yum CEO, who said, “If Taco Bell doesn’t have a great year next year, I’ll be really upset.”
Is that like when I tell my teenager, “If your room isn’t clean in 10 minutes, I’ll be really upset”? Or does he mean he’d be really surprised if it doesn’t do well given the effort invested in spicing up Taco Bell’s performance?
I’m going to credit him with my latter assumption. But even still, his follow-up quote didn’t clear things up for me: “You see the strength of a leader in how they handle tough times, and I admire what Greg and his team have done,” Novak said. “Not many people are going to get on that plane and go to Frito-Lay and come up with a nacho cheese taco.”
Well, unless they want to keep their job, and the pressure to perform is truly on Creed’s shoulders at Taco Bell.