Taco Bell is a love-it-or-hate-it place: You either love the cheap prices and late night hours of operation, or you hate that you don’t know exactly what is in your burrito. Recently, the food chain has removed all artificial ingredients from its fare, changed the décor and added a breakfast menu in an attempt to persuade its critics. Now, a Taco Bell in Chicago is making another radical change to the menu; Beer, anyone?
The Chicago store is a case study for the franchise’s new urban design. An upgraded drink menu, layout and color scheme is supposed to reflect a more authentic vibe, much like its higher priced competitor Chipotle. With local art on the walls and a bar with a view into the open kitchen, Taco Bell is hoping to appeal to the millennials in search of a restaurant with a less mass-produced style.
Putting alcohol next to a Gordita Supreme can go one of two ways. It could result in a raging success –college kids kicking off their weekends at the Taco Bell bar, Mom and Dad taking Junior out to dinner and enjoying a beer too, and professionals stopping by after work for a drink and beer even cheaper than Happy Hour. The alternative: it might go down as a fiery failure.
Here are some potential problems that we see happening. Just because brands like Chipotle have an authentic feel and an alcoholic drink menu doesn’t mean all brands can pull this off. Taco Bell is trying to shed its cheap, fast-food image, but is it even possible? Chipotle already has their niche, arguably one of the most dedicated foodie fan bases in the country, and we question whether Taco Bell can steal away any of their market share. Even with the recent changes taking place, Taco Bell is still far away from catching up to Chipotle. It’s impressive that the chain has increased sales by 9 percent, but not compared to Chipotles’ 10.4 percent.
There are also the common issues with selling alcohol. If the design and menu catches on, Taco Bell will have to purchase liquor licenses for all other stores. This sounds like a lot of administrative work and lengthened timelines. It will also change the environment of the store. In other words, they might gain a few millennials, but they might lose families.
It’s clear that Taco Bell is making big changes to their brand. Best case scenario, it excels! Worst case is a Frankenstein combination of McDonalds’ fast-n-cheap breakfast, a knock-off Chipotle authenticity, and their own mediocre sales.