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‘Star Wars’ Giveaways Put Taco Bell Sales in Warp Drive

Parents know that when it comes to their children, the toy being given away is often more appetizing than what’s on the fast-food menu.

But restaurant company executives--and their shareholders--also have good reason for loving the giveaways.

Taco Bell Corp., the Irvine-based subsidiary of PepsiCo Inc., has been scrambling to pump up slow sales. Part of the solution was the wealth of toys given away as part of the chain’s recent involvement in the re-release of the “Star Wars” movie trilogy.

In PepsiCo’s annual report to shareholders, company Chairman and Chief Executive Roger A. Enrico noted that the Force was indeed with the Mexican-style fast-food restaurant chain: “As I write this letter, Taco Bell same-store sales are up 4%, primarily because of Star Wars.”

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Next on the menu at Taco Bell: “Unmask Batman & Robin,” a tie-in with the Warner Bros. movie that opens nationwide June 20. The company says that its initial Batman tie-in back in 1989 was one of its most successful promotions.

Taco Bell is following in the footsteps of McDonald’s, which gave away millions of tiny Beanie Babies along with its Happy Meals.

The world’s largest fast-food chain drew heavy media coverage with a giveaway that lasted for five weeks. Doting parents hoping to win favor with their offspring were lining up at McDonald’s counters for the two Beanie Babies that were introduced each week.

McDonald’s five-week program required diners to buy 10 Happy Meals to get a complete set of toys.

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Greg Johnson covers retail businesses and restaurants for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-5950 and at greg.johnson@latimes.com


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