Taco Bell is sticking with the playbook that helped it muscle into the breakfast business last year: Take a breakfast sandwich, and put it in a taco.
The fast-food chain will introduce a new line of Biscuit Tacos, which wrap taco-shaped biscuits around fillings such as chicken and gravy, at its more than 6,000 U.S. restaurants on Thursday as part of an expanded morning menu.
Breakfast traffic at U.S. restaurants has grown for four years straight, and fast-food chains have been trying take market share from McDonald’s Corp., the morning leader. Taco Bell, a unit of Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum! Brands Inc., joined the fray about a year ago with waffle tacos, egg burritos and the A.M. Crunchwrap. Breakfast now accounts for about 6 percent of Taco Bell’s sales, and the new items are designed to draw customers away from rivals, said Brian Niccol, Taco Bell’s chief executive officer.
“We have a lot of Taco Bell users who are already eating breakfast in the food-food industry,” Niccol said in an interview. “We still have a big opportunity on getting people aware that Taco Bell is open for breakfast.”
For McDonald’s, the maker of the Egg McMuffin, breakfast accounts for about 25 percent of the company’s sales. Taco Bell has taken aim at the Egg McMuffin in advertisements, suggesting the sandwich is outdated. Starbucks Corp., meanwhile, has been expanding its breakfast-sandwich offerings as it tries to double food sales to $4 billion by 2019.
Taco Bell has been trying to gain market share in other parts of the day by emphasizing food innovations such as its Doritos Locos Tacos, whose shells are flavored like the popular Frito-Lay brand chip.
As it searches for additional portable breakfast items, Taco Bell is testing Cap’n Crunch Delights -- which the company describes as “warm, light pastries coated with fruity Cap’n Crunch Berries cereal” -- at 26 restaurants in Bakersfield, California. A pack of two sells for $1, while a 12-pack is $4.49.
With the introduction of the new breakfast biscuits, Taco Bell is retiring the waffle taco after about a year on the menu. The new Biscuit Tacos will be sold for a suggested price of $2.49. In addition to combinations of eggs, cheese, bacon and sausage, Biscuit Tacos can for a limited time also be ordered with crispy chicken and gravy or jalapeno honey, which Niccol called Taco Bell’s take on chicken and biscuits.
“The Biscuit Taco is going to get people to rethink their morning routine,” he said. “When you do things that people don’t see coming, those are the types of products that get people talking.”