Taco Bell is trying to color outside of the fast-food lines, launching several new items designed to compete with higher-end restaurants.
On Thursday, the Irvine-based chain will officially launch XXL Steak Nachos, which it calls “restaurant-sized nachos.”
In addition, as rivals such as Burger King and McDonald’s expand their sweet offerings, Taco Bell is revealing a national dessert menu filled with churro doughnuts, caramel apple empanadas and cookie sandwiches, all for less than $1 each.
In Charlotte, N.C., Taco Bell is testing a double-steak quesadilla through its more upscale Cantina Bell menu, which some analysts have dubbed the “Chipotle Killer,” referring to the fast-casual Mexican chain with which Taco Bell is competing for customers. The new quesadilla includes more premium ingredients such as marinated braised steak and real pepper-jack cheese.
A smothered burrito is in trials in Dayton, Ohio, its top coat of red sauce meant to evoke the “indulgence of a restaurant-style enchilada and fillingness of a burrito all with the convenience of a QSR.”
QSR, by the way, is short for “quick service restaurant.” Many QSRs recently have been trying to update their menus to reflect the growing trend toward high-end, healthful food.
At this time last year, Taco Bell was struggling to emerge from a morass of customer skepticism and slumping sales. In its effort to revamp its image, the company changed its motto to “Live Mas,” introduced the sudden cult favorite Doritos Locos Taco and paired with celebrity chef Lorena Garcia to create the gourmet Cantina Bell menu.
Recently, influential hedge fund manager David Einhorn suggested that Taco Bell had successfully repositioned itself as a threat to Chipotle. After concerns about the content of its seasoned beef filling caused Taco Bell customers to scatter last year, the chain is trying to win back fans with free tacos stunts and refreshed stores.