Taco Bell Giving the World an Innovation Lesson

Taco Bell Giving the World an Innovation Lesson

As someone who was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and thyroid malfunction a few years back, I’m not a fan of fast food or anything that’s processed after it’s picked from the ground or carved from the hide of an animal.

However, Taco Bell has been impressing the living daylights out of customers and business insiders consistently for the last few years. Since 2012, they’ve been making steady moves toward rebranding the”Taco Hell” moniker that’s hung heavily with shame over the rooftop of every store for the last few decades.

taco bell ad
Image by D’oh By (Mark Holloway) / Flickr

Check Out Taco Bell’s Recent Timeline of Awesome Innovation:


2012 — Released the Doritos Locos Taco (catchy name, right?)

They sold a billion of these inside the first year, making it their highest selling new release ever when comparing that same short time frame of sales with other products. If you know nothing about this taco, I remember Twitter and other social online gathering spots lighting up with angry customers who were ticked right off that they could only order one of these at a time because the demand exceeded the supply so much. That’s right, this near-miracle of food innovation (read this) was so highly anticipated that Taco Bell had to do something “loco” and actually limit how many of these things a customer could buy!

Crazy… and profitable.

This innovation also spurned a still-recovering economy at the time by giving work to 15,000 unemployed workers that were needed just to handle the added stress this single taco added to their daily operations. Make sure you read the link I left in the last paragraph. There’s a lot more that goes into making this “crazy” taco than most of us would think: ie., there’s tons more to it than just dusting a taco with some Dorito’s dust.

I’ll flash-forward a bit now, since not much happened in 2013 other than lots of Doritos Locos Tacos being sold in their stores (that I can recall). Leave a comment if you can remember a big game-changer I’m forgetting about.

2014 — Mexican Breakfast Time

As if tacos and fries covered with fatty, filling meat and grease weren’t enough to draw customers in, they launched their breakfast menu early in this year. It isn’t really worth talking about too much, as the company was really late in the game getting their breakfast buns in gear. The idea of a fast food franchise not opening their doors until 11 a.m. is kind of ridiculous and really irresponsible from a growth/profit perspective at this point in time. Even most of the big coffee shop chains had a full breakfast and lunch menu in place for years by this point. What took you guys so long Taco Bell?

They also launched their smartphone app allowing smartphone users to build and pre-order their meals and pick it up at the store without standing in a lineup. Keep reading to 2015 and I discuss this innovation in more detail. They’ve now added a web-based app to their newly launched website so you can order from a laptop or desktop too.


2015 — The birth of Taco Bell “Cantinas”

Earlier This Year:

Taco Bell hit food snobs who refuse to eat fast food right where it hurts by promising to rid each and every food item on their menu of artificial preservatives and flavorings, high fructose corn syrup and added trans fats by the end of the year. That’s a huge, wallop of a move and not a minute to soon if you ask me when they’re promising these health-robbing additives will be gone from EVERYTHING. A promise that I don’t think any of the other big boys in this space can promise.

I’m sure the rest will soon follow suit soon, but McDonald’s has been getting their fare share of flack over the use of preservatives in most of their food. And little has been done about it. Check out this disgusting post on Why McDonald’s Burgers Don’t Rot. Ughh!

Taco Bell also released a new “DoorDash” service for smartphone users that delivers the food directly to customer’s doors in select areas of the country though the use of the DoorDash app. The concept of delivery isn’t what is really so cool about this service though. It’s the tech innovation involved. DoorDash is the tech company Taco Bell partnered with and they use a proprietary logistics program to predict the most efficient and safe traffic routes for the delivery drivers to use in getting food to customer’s doors. They plan to roll this out in 90+ U.S. cities tout de suite and are currently testing in over 200 stores in North America.


Most Recent:

Taco Bell just unveiled their newest innovation. Selling alcohol in select restaurants throughout the country. Pretty awesome idea if you’re an aging brand looking to pull more money-toting millennials into your stores, right? Darned-tootin, and they’ll be offering a product that most of us that run in entrepreneurial circles will recognize, namely stackable wines. Remember Copa Di Vino? One of a few products to make Kevin O’Leary froth at the mouth on Shark Tank?) I don’t know if they’ll offer that specific product, but this is an interesting move, provided they ID each and every person who buys it. They’ll also offer beer, though specific brands haven’t been mentioned yet. Along with various drinks spiked with an ounce of either tequila, vodka or rum.

All this and they just released their new website “ta.co” (which redirects to Tacobell.com). The updated site includes previous innovations like their “Food” section that allows you to build your own tacos and combos for preorder at your closest location and skip the line when you arrive. And the “Feed” section which is like a lifestyle blog for customers who want to post pictures of quirky artsy and fashion-related stuff. Check out “Taco Belle” Olivia Mears making a virgin post on the Feed blog.


Food for Thought:

One of the most interesting innovative moves Taco Bell has made in recent years should be obvious. Web presence and mobile ordering. Allowing customers to create an account on their website, build their own meals and have it ready and waiting at the store when they arrive, without having to stand in a long ordering line is pretty epic. In a busy city, this is a big time-saver. And rife with social media sharing and other marketing opportunities, no?

Not to mention you get to build your meal in peace without the worry of dealing with communication issues from your server; a common complaint from hustle-and-bustle and/or anti-social types who don’t have the time or patience to deal with the conventional face-to-face ordering process that currently exist in food establishments all over. So far, this has proved to be a significant money maker too. Customers using this service spend 20% per purchase than the in-store crowd do, reports Taco Bell.

Then there’s the DoorDash app that promises to make stuffing their tacos down one by one even easier for consumers everywhere. Will it fly? This one’s up in the air, but it’s certainly innovative in this industry…

Partnering with companies like Doritos and Starbucks has also proven profitable for Taco Bell and I’m sure we’ll see no shortage of this in the future.

All in all, I don’t see another global restaurant chain making these kinds of gutsy moves. And they are gutsy.

Do you agree? Leave a comment and let me know.

Chad Stewart

Chad Stewart is a staff writer for Noobpreneur.com who has worked in business for the better part of 16 years now. He got his start in the down-and-dirty world of intermodal logistics management, before moving into more challenging roles in retail and warehouse management. Chad holds both a Business Marketing and Operations Management degree from Sir Sandford Fleming College. In his spare time he enjoys traveling the world, time with his dog, fishing, snowshoeing, watching UFC and is an avid fitness buff.