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by David Klemt

Taco Bell Leveraging Subscriptions & LTOs

by David Klemt

Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries

Not for the first time, Taco Bell is showing the industry the power of offering fan-favorite limited-time offers and leveraging subscriptions.

These days, everything seems to be subscription-based. We stream shows and movies via subscriptions. We can have food, clothing, gadgets, collectibles, and knick-knacks delivered to us by subcription.

Car features like heated seats, remote engine start, and self-driving? Subscriptions. Want to use software we used to buy once and install? Now we’re paying monthly to use it (or up front for a “discounted” yearly fee).

So, why should people find it odd to subscribe to one of their favorite restaurants? If the value is there for a consumer it’s no different than paying a monthly fee for other products and services to which they subscribe.

Clearly, Taco Bell has an acute understanding of people’s comfort with subscriptions. For many consumers, they’re the norm, just part of their daily routine.

As evidence, I introduce Exibit A, the Taco Lover’s Pass.

What makes this subscription noteworthy is the fact that it’s only a few years old, and it’s not even a permanent subscription. As Taco Bell Rewards members know all too well, only they can cop a Taco Lover’s Pass, and it only comes available every so often.

Most times, members have just one day to grab a pass. However, people had two whole days to decide the last time it became available.

And now, Exhibit B, the Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass.

An LTO Subscription and Item

Look, tens of millions of people love tacos. So, it’s logical that the Taco Lover’s Pass is so successful.

And if the past several years have shown us anything, millions of people also love Nacho Fries. The LTO menu item first appeared in Taco Bell restaurants in 2018. A few years later, in 2021, the Taco Lover’s Pass was tested in Arizona.

Why wouldn’t we eventually see a Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass, given the hype that follows every reintroduction of this popular item? Taco Bell has mastered the art of the LTO and the subscription. More specifically, they’ve mastered the recurring subscription. Remember, their passes aren’t permanent offerings.

Further, the iconic QSR also understands the power of the “drop.” At this point, it seems as though Taco Bell has noticed the rabid stir a limited-edition shoe or clothing drop can create for the fashion industry, studied it, and adapted it to foodservice.

With that said, the last Taco Lover’s Pass was accompanied by a menu item drop: the Toasted Breakfast Taco. If you think the Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass also ushered in an LTO, you’re correct.

The first-ever Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass comes along with the limited-time-only offer of Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries.

Take the Nacho Fries, slather them in a sauce of melted mozzarella, monterey pepper jack, and cheddar cheeses, add Taco Bell nacho cheese and chipotle sauce, and toss on some marinated steak. There you go—Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries. They’re just $4.99 while supplies last, and there’s a spicy version made with jalapeños.

It’s no surprise that Taco Bell is BrandVue’s most-loved Mexican restaurant brand, and number eight on their overall list of most-loved restaurant brands.


Loyalty and rewards programs, subscription services, hyped LTO menu drops… These aren’t the exclusive domain of global chain restaurants.

Independent operators can absolutely leverage LTOs and subscriptions. Moreover, indies can do so with as much—if not more—specificity. Independent and regional chain operators tend to be far more nimble than their large chain counterparts.

After all, it’s much easier to implement change in one or a handful of restaurants than it is hundreds or thousands of locations. In theory, single-unit operators also know their loyal guests on a more intimate level. Where that’s the case, they should know what levers to pull to generate interest and encourage repeat visits.

It’s no small task to create a subscription program, let alone a free-to-use-but-engaging, branded rewards program. And that’s to say nothing of coming up with menu item so powerful that taking it away for months at a time is a feasible, profitable thing to do. Although, if you’ve shrunk your menu and eliminated a decent food or drink performer, you may have somewhere to start.

With time and thoughtful consideration, independent and regional operators can absolutely nail rewards, subscriptions, and LTOs.

Image: Taco Bell

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