Taco Bell’s New Concept Exemplifies Fast-Casual’s Growing Popularity

Taco Bell’s New Concept Exemplifies Fast-Casual’s Growing Popularity

Photos by US Taco Co

Photos by US Taco Co

The news last month that Taco Bell would be launching a U.S. fast-casual concept that includes serving lobster in a taco shell shouldn’t come as any surprise to fast food consumers. Sure, a lot of people (myself included) are satisfied with a Doritos Locos Taco for a fifth of the price, but make no mistake: There’s clearly money to be made in the fast-casual sector.

According to recent research from the NPD Group, the U.S. fast-casual segment’s growth in traffic far surpassed that of every other restaurant segment in the 12-month period that ended last November, the fifth consecutive year that’s happened.

NPD found that total customer visits to fast-casual establishments such as Chipotle, Smashburger, and Baja Fresh rose 8% during the time period, compared to flat traffic overall for all restaurant segments. The reason is that fast-casual concepts are continuing to capture market traffic share by meeting consumers’ expectations, said Bonnie Riggs, the research firm’s restaurant industry analyst.

us-taco-logoHence the launch of U.S. Taco Co., Taco Bell’s fast-casual concept scheduled to open this summer in Huntington Beach, California. Don’t expect 99-cent tacos here. The menu, which will consist of 10 different soft-shell, open-faced tacos as its initial entrees, will feature tacos that will sell for as much as $7 and include ingredients like Maine lobster, Texas brisket, and Wisconsin cheese. A second U.S. Taco location, which Taco Bell executives say will also be located in Southern California, will have a liquor license.

Sure, to date, fast-casual’s sales in the overall U.S. limited-service restaurant segment have been relatively small. According to Technomic’s recent report on the top 150 fast-casual chain restaurants, fast-casual chains make up just 15% of the $231 billion limited-service segment. However, fast-casual sales rose 11% last year, while sales at all limited-service chains rose just 3.5%.

The result?

Taco Bell looking to sell $7 lobster and brisket tacos.

"Taco Bell’s New Concept Exemplifies Fast-Casual’s Growing Popularity" originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.

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