How Taco Bell Built an Empire on Bizarre Foods – Cheddar Examines
94 Comments


This is not a taco. But it’s what it was to me growing up in suburban Massachusetts. The hardshell taco was popularized in the United States in 1951 by Glenn Bell. Yes, that bell. Since then, Taco Bell has continued to introduce bizarre takes on standard menu items. What is this is? A waffle taco? What’s next a pancake and chilada? It’s a slippery slope I tell you. Sure, it’s a little gimmicky. But it might just be marketing genius. Taco Bell has created a way to make the gimmick real and profitable. In 1948, 25 year old Glenn Bell started a food stand in San Bernardino California. Bell’s Hamburgers and Hotdogs, but at the same time the McDonald’s brothers new fast food joint was beginning to claim the burger market. Bell needed to be different. Across the street from his stand was a small, but busy Mexican restaurant, Mitla Cafe. He fell in love with the food especially the light crispy tortillas stuffed with ground beef and lettuce. So much so that he tried to replicate it with a makeshift fryer. His final creation was a much crunchier version of the Mitla Café item. Less messy, easy to eat on the go. Accurate or not, Bell called it a taco which he originally sold for 19 cents. It was a smash hit. So in 1954, he opened a new stand, Taco Tia and over the next decade, he continued to open more. He finally opened his first Taco Bell restaurant in 1962 in Downey California. The hardshell taco or tego as first time customers called it was Bell’s first innovation. Since then the company has released a steady flow of somewhat bizarre menu items. This is the enchirito. While a burrito is typically a flower tortilla filled with beans and enchilada is traditionally a corn tortilla filled with meat and smothered in chili sauce. The enchirito was released in 1967 and was a popular menu item for almost 30 years. Original and unique items like the chili burger proved to be a winning formula for Glen Bell. Taco Bell was bought by Pepsico in 1978. Even with new owners, the strategy remained the same. Produce a menu of traditional items while experimenting with new hybrid foods. The all new naked chicken chips made of crispy fried chicken dipped in a seductive nacho cheese sauce. This innovation based strategy is called Buzz. Each one of these items is designed to create noise. Blackjack taco only 89 cents exclusively at Taco Bell. Other fast food companies chase Buzz with innovative menu items too. In case you haven’t heard Wendy’s has fresh stuff tito’s. All of which you will no longer find on a menu anywhere. A new champions of taste, Mighty Wings from McDonald’s. And sure, Taco Bell had some failures. In producing new seafood salad from Taco Bell. But those aside, a lot of those buzz worthy test runs became menu staples. As a Taco Bell taste Gourriel. So it’s good to go. Genius. So, how did Taco Bell succeed in transforming buzz into billions. In March 2018, Cheddar live had Taco Bell CMO, Marisa Thalberg on the show. That to me speaks to doing things that for sure generate us. But it’s because the idea itself is exciting. It touches people, makes people want to a taco makes the people want to share. It sounds like PR, but I really think she means it. Taco Bell dedicates serious resources into new food items. Their insights lab test 4500 new product ideas every year. 350 to 500 of those ideas end up in consumer tests. Eight to 10 of which end up on the national menu, and the returns are usually immediate. Taco Bell debuted the Doritos Locos Tacos in March of 2012. In just 10 weeks, 100 million were sold. While Taco Bell never came close to being America’s favorite fast food chain, it did have complete control over the Mexican fast food market for a time. But now, other competitors like Chipotle, Moes, and Qdoba have entered the ring. Taco Bell still holds a commanding lead. It overtook Burger King to become the fourth largest U.S. chain with 9.8 billion in sales in 2017. Chipotle had a revenue of 4.5 billion. But that lead is shrinking. So, back to the lab for Taco Bell. Thanks for watching. Please like and subscribe if you like this video, and comment below with brands you’d like to see us feature next on examines.

94 thoughts on “How Taco Bell Built an Empire on Bizarre Foods – Cheddar Examines

  1. wait – I have been one of the first?
    like I watched the video, closed it, looked at my messages and saw that I clicled this epusode 5 seconds after it was published

  2. I would love to work on a product development assignment for Taco Bell. It’s like that Jim Gaffigan Mexican food joke. It’s all the same shit over and over again put together in different ways.

  3. In 1951, Glen Bell looked at America and said, "There's not enough diarrhea occurring. I'll fix it!" And Taco Bell was created.

  4. Quick clarifying question. You interchangeably used profit and revenue at the end. They aren't the same. You compared chipotle's revenue with Taco Bell's profit.

  5. Don't get me wrong, Taco Bell is delicious. But, I really wish some of that research money could go into finding ways of reducing the negative impact the food has on the gastrointestinal system. If there is one complaint I hear more than anything about Taco Bell, it's how often it gives consumers "the runs;" myself included.

    And no, I am not trying to be facetious here. I seriously think they should try to isolate the ingredients that are making people sick, and do something about it.

    I don't get diarrhea when I make tacos at home. So, don't try to tell me all Mexican inspired food does that.

  6. The real genius of Taco Bell is the fact that the "buzz" portion of their company is their growth. They're not looking to gain ground in the "Mexican fast food market" because they're not in it, they're in the "buzz fast food market"

  7. Great content. Long-time subscriber, but i feel like this recent material has taken it up a notch. Thanks!

    I used to love the chicken Cesar grilled stuffed burrito. Had a real problem. Then they took it away. They always do that “Limited Time” ish. Bastards!
    (Resisting crunchwrap… glad Taco Bell is closed.)

  8. 4500 a year?? That averages out to 17 new products per workday—they must have dozens, even hundreds, of new products underway at any given time!

  9. The real reason Taco Bell is popular is because it is the most versatile fast food available. You can make any food item vegetarian or vegan quite easily.

  10. Frankly, places like Qdoba and Chipotle are an entirely different restaurant from Taco Bell. Qdoba and Chipotle are "fast casual" and Taco Bell is undeniably just Fast Food. I can get an entire meal at Taco Bell for under $5. Qdoba and Chipotle meals are likely twice that, at least. It's a different market segment in my opinion.

  11. the CMO really said "it touches people" when talking about her company's piles of slop. She must have a really poor grasp of reality. Honey, no one is ever "touched by" fast food – and certainly not by the kind your company produces. What deep meaningful emotions exactly do you think cheap ground beef and a tortilla sold through a window evokes in people? Don't be pathetic.

  12. I used to work with a lot of Mexicans who hated Taco Bell. I explained to them that Taco Bell is to their cuisine is McDonalds is to American cuisine, and that therefore there was nothing wrong with Taco Bell, aside from inauthenticity. They were willing to eat there once in a while after that framing of the Bell.

  13. Uhhh, a quick look at Wikipedia in both English and Spanish suggest that taco is actually something that existed before Europeans even got to the Americas… I really don't think this Mr. Bell invented taco

  14. I live in Joliet, IL. We have 2 Taco Bell's. They must be there by the shear will & revenue of their parent company. We have so many Mexicans that really good Mexican food is usually within 100 yards. Taco bell is drunk 2:00 am food.

  15. What's great about Taco Bell, is you can still fill up for relatively cheap. For the price of one Big Mac (gross), you can still get a full meal at Taco Bell.

  16. the number of mexicans eating in a place is proportionally with the goodness of the tacos served there.
    so, no mexicans eating at taco bell means no good tacos.

  17. The answer really doesnt need to be a 5 minute video. It would be enough to say that "because theyre based in America, the land of wierd fat people.

  18. Tacobell is the girl from back home, the girl who was always there, who always loved you, who always was by your side even if you at times were running around with the Readheaded chick. Has seen your worse when you had to scrape the bottom of the menu with minimal ingredients, and it has seen your "add extra cheese, extra guac and extra everything on that, i'm treating myself".

    Chipotle is the girl from the big city, the one you kinda dabble with once you make it and have some extra cash..

    That chipotle hoe will break yo heart and leave you for the next guy AS SOON as you hit the first low.

    Taco bell is ALWAYS by your side, you can ALWAYS trust taco bell to have your back.

    Love you Taco bell

  19. Mitla Cafe is still there and is tasty. Don't go after dark if you value your life.

    Btw, I understood that Mitla cafe showed Glen Bell how to make tacos and he ran with it.

  20. Most people don't remember McDonald's pizza….. not that it was great, but it was surprisingly better than expected and like $5 before Little Caesar's had theirs

  21. Gosh I sure wish we could find at least some of the things found in the U.S.A. in my country! You guys down there don't know how good you have it with the variety (although we have better food safety).

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