Taco Bell is bringing back potatoes, giving fans on the internet a reason to rejoice
Taco Bell is adding potatoes back to its menu in March following months of complaints from vegetarians and other fans of the previously longstanding menu item.
The chain, which has long promoted vegetarian options including black beans on its menu, also announced it is working on a test with Beyond Meat on a new plant-based protein.
Reactions on Twitter to the news included “HALLELUJAH,” “Biggest news of the year, imo,” “BULLYING WORKS” and “glad to see we can all come together to make positive change in the world.”
By early afternoon, there were 5,500 mentions of Taco Bell and potatoes in the last 24 hours, a 4,500% increase over yesterday, generating 17,600 engagements, according to Talkwalker.
So far, sentiment is mixed, according to the social media tracking firm, with 20% negative to 20% positive, with the remainder neutral. Those negative posts don’t necessarily mean people are upset, but could be flagged as negative because people were posting about how they were upset when Taco Bell removed potatoes from the menu.
And, as Taco Bell likely anticipated, some people are upset about other items, such as Mexican Pizza, not returning. Mexican pizza was pulled from the menu in 2020.
About that talking potato
The eyes and mouth of Taco Bell CEO Mark King appear on a potato in a video run on Thursday to share the news of the March 11 return of regular potatoes. King’s tater-likeness explains to those who may have missed the announcement in 2020 that Taco Bell took its potatoes off the menu to help speed up the drive-thru lanes and kitchens during the coronavirus pandemic.
Other chains also took measures to speed up drive-thru times in 2020, such as McDonald's hitting the brakes on All Day Breakfast. Now, as chains move on during the pandemic and dining rooms largely remain closed, they are looking for ways including food news—cue the veggie options and lots of chicken sandwiches — to lure diners.
“But it’s a new year with new possibilities,” he says. Later, he adds that the chain is “going big” with its vegetarian menu this year. “We’re going above and beyond,” he says, with a heavy wink.
Even the announcement was met with praise and backlash. Some seemed pleased to see Taco Bell try out a Snap filter that has more recently been used on video calls such as those on Zoom. But as others pointed out, by not offering subtitles or captions, those who are deaf or hard of hearing—or who just didn’t want to turn up their sound—couldn’t understand the speaking spud.
Later in the day, Taco Bell added a new version of the video, with captions.
Taco Bell announced it is working with Beyond Meat “to create an innovative new plant-based protein that will be tested in the next year,” adding that it chose to work with Beyond Meat in part because of its “proven track record of attracting younger customers.” Beyond Meat already works with Taco Bell’s sibling chains KFC and Pizza Hut. Habit Burger Grill, which Yum bought in 2020, announced a patty partnership with Beyond Meat rival Impossible Foods last year.
The link up for a product that fits into the plant-based trend helped propel shares of Beyond Meat, which jumped nearly 14% on Thursday, the same day the brand was giving away breakfast at some smaller chains, not including Taco Bell.
“The return of our beloved potatoes is just the first step in showing our fans the strong continued commitment to vegetarian we are making this year,” Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s global chief food innovation officer, said in a statement.
Along with fans, other brands got in on the action.