Taco Bell Tests Tests 'Low-End' $1 Cravings Menu

Chain Says to Expect More Limited-Time Items Like Beefy Crunchy Burrito

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Taco Bell is working on what it's calling a new "low-end" menu, dubbed $1 Cravings.

Brian Niccol
Brian Niccol

The menu, which is in test in Sacramento and Kansas City, Mo., includes 12 items such as a Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla, Churro and Triple Layer Nachos, all priced at a dollar. Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer Brian Niccol said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that the company is working on redefining value in all areas of its menu, and that Taco Bell recognizes that it has to address customers' needs with a dollar menu. He added that Taco Bell is learning that its customers want and need a dollar-menu solution, but that Taco Bell is not offering that with its current value-menu iteration.

The chain's current value menu, dubbed "Why Pay More," includes items originally priced at 79 cents, 89 cents and 99 cents, though those prices have largely increased to well north of a dollar over time. There are also $2 meal deals on the "Why Pay More" menu. The chain initially announced the $1 Craving test in January, noting then that if the $1 Cravings menu goes national, it would replace the "Why Pay more" menu.

Taco Bell was vague in the briefing about when the new value menu would be rolled out or whether it definitely will be, but Mr. Niccol said that the chain is "optimistic" for a rollout this year, adding that the $2 meal deals are likely to "evolve."

Mr. Niccol also said that the $1 Cravings menu test is part of a larger commitment Taco Bell has of providing value through menu innovation. He used its higher-end Cantina menu as an example of a product line that offers "Fresh Mex" food at the $5 price point, lower than competitors. The Cantina menu is a direct competitor to Chipotle, which has long been the leader in higher-end Mexican fast food. Its products often are priced at north of $7.

Mr. Niccol also said that Taco Bell will offer value through more limited-time offerings. On Wednesday the chain announced via Snapchat, a social-media app that quickly deletes messages after they're sent to respondents, the return of its popular Beefy Crunchy Burrito. It will be available May 23 for 99 cents.

Taco Bell isn't the only chain with a value revamp on its mind. Wendy's earlier this year overhauled its value menu, naming it "Right Price, Right Size," which includes items that range between 99 cents and $1.99. The marketing for the new menu pushed value as more than just a low price. "Everyone has a value menu these days. But at Wendy's, value is more than a low price," reads a recent Wendy's magazine ad. McDonald's has been heavily advertising its dollar menu since late last year.

Taco Bell in April announced that it would be revamping some of its menu items in the coming years to meet better nutritional standards.

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