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.
Hence 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%.
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.