Taco Bell Looks to 'Reinvent the Taco'

Chain plays coy on whether Doritos Locos Taco will hit systemwide

Taco Bell is testing a new taco featuring a shell made from nacho cheese-flavored Doritos, a product that is quickly becoming a media star as the chain’s parent company hints of plans to “reinvent the taco” next year.

In a third-quarter call to analysts this week, Yum! Brands Inc. chairman and chief executive David Novak said the company is focusing efforts on turning around disappointing sales at Taco Bell, the company’s largest and most profitable chain in the United States.

Novak promised “market-tested, category-breakthrough innovation” to re-energize the Taco Bell brand by the end of the first quarter next year.

Company officials were shy to confirm whether the new Doritos Locos Taco is part of that so-called innovation.

“We’re excited about the positive consumer response to Doritos Locos Tacos, which is currently in test markets in Bakersfield, Fresno, and Toledo,” said Rob Poetsch, a spokesman for the chain. “It’s highly innovative because it combines two classic favorites that people love. When we know it’s perfect, we’ll bring it to market.”

Still, news of the Doritos Locos Taco is sweeping the internet and the product was featured Wednesday in a spot on Good Morning America. The product test has been rolled out to 33 units in Toledo, 58 units in Bakersfield, and 24 locations in Fresno.

It is being described as the mythical creation of some dorm room junk-food-crazed daydream.

The new item is a taco with ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. But instead of the usual crispy corn tortilla, the shell is made from dayglo-orange-colored nacho cheese Doritos.

A Facebook page that appears to have been created by fans representing the “taco shells made from Doritos movement,” or TSMFD, features Photoshopped images of Einstein dreaming up the bright-orange Doritos shell; David Hasselhoff with a Doritos shell replacing the hanky in his suit pocket; and Emeril “Lacheesey” Lagasse caught in mid-“Bam!” with a shell in his hand.

On Thursday at press time, more than 3,200 people “liked” the Facebook page.

Taco Bell officials welcomed the attention, especially after the brand took a hit in the media earlier this year when a lawsuit raised questions about the chain’s seasoned ground beef. The lawsuit was later dropped, and the chain fought back aggressively to dispel consumer concerns, but the damage was done.

Same-store sales for the 5,600-unit Taco Bell were down 2 percent for the third quarter, an improvement over the 5-percent decline in the second quarter, but “not an acceptable result,” said Novak.

Other initiatives to come at Taco Bell include an expansion of the test of a breakfast menu, Novak told analysts this week.

Watch a local California commercial for the taco


— Lisa Jennings

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