“Thank You for Coming to My Taco Bell Talk”
by David Klemt
The showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers isn’t the only big news coming out of Las Vegas from Super Bowl LVIII weekend.
Of course, the game’s result is also big news. Congratulations to the Chiefs on their back-to-back world champion wins!
However, Super Bowl weekend kicked off with a unique event. On Friday, February 9, Taco Bell hosted their first-ever Live Más LIVE event.
As the event’s title suggests, Live Más LIVE was a livestream. And during that livestream, the undisputed Kings of the LTO did something they and their competitors simply don’t do. At Live Más LIVE, Taco Bell revealed their 2024 menu lineup.
Another way of putting this to illustrate the event’s significance is that Taco Bell just gave away their marketing calendar for the year.
Apparently, the inspiration for Live Más LIVE comes from Apple. The tech colossus has been hosting their annual Worldwide Developers Conference in earnest for more than 20 years. For the unfamiliar, Apple uses WDC to announce product news.
“I watch Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, and I just had this moment,” said Taylor Montgomery, Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer. So, I have to wonder if Live Más LIVE will become an annual or semi-annual event.
I’ll get to the items and opportunities Taco Bell unveiled in a moment. There’s a bigger point I believe operators should take away from Live Más LIVE.
A restaurant or bar’s menu is not just a list of items for sale. A menu is a powerful marketing tool. It’s a billboard. Arguably, the menu is the most powerful tool in an operator’s marketing toolbox.
While Taco Bell’s 2024 menu items are huge news, they’re not the only important revelation.
During Live Más LIVE, Taco Bell announced three emerging chefs who will launch the QSR giant’s TBX culinary program. Chefs Reuben Asaram, Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, and Lawrence Smith will first be tasked with reinvigorating the Crunchwrap Supreme.
The announcement that these three chefs will bring their unique styles to Taco Bell speaks to the overall theme of the Super Bowl weekend event: Innovation.
This year, Taco Bell is going hard with new menu items, and they’re entering into compelling new collaborations to do so. These partnerships include:
- Beekeeper Coffee for Horchata Cold Brew Latte;
- Cheez-It for the Cheez-It Crunchwrap, which features a Cheez-It cracker that’s 16 times (!) the size of a standard one;
- Disha Hot for an exclusive sauce packet;
- Salt & Straw for Ice Cream Chocolate Taco (think upscale Choco Taco), featuring cinnamon ancho ice cream;
- Secret Aardvark for their Serrabanero sauce, which will accompany Nacho Fries; and
- Tajín for an exclusive Taco Bell menu that will reportedly consist of a Tajín Crunchy Taco, Tajín Twists, and a Tajín Strawberry Freeze.
Having attended the Salt & Straw opening in Las Vegas (well, Spring Valley, but I won’t get into that further) I can say that I’m eager to sink my teeth into an Ice Cream Chocolate Taco.
On its own, these collaborations and menu testings are big news. However, Taco Bell’s event went bigger.
We all remember the Great Chicken Wars of the past several years. Well, Taco Bell has put their competitors on notice: They’re finally leaping into the fray.
According to Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s chief food innovation officer, the company is lacking when it comes to having their “fair share of chicken.” The planned Cantina Chicken menu aims to fix this oversight.
Along with oven-roasted and shredded chicken seasoned with pasilla, other chilies, and spices, come a number of ingredients appearing at Taco Bell restaurants for the first time. Among them are purple cabbage, an Avocado Verde Salsa sauce packet, and white corn taco shells.
Debuting soon (hopefully) are are the Cantina Chicken Burrito, Cantina Chicken Taco (available in soft or crispy varieties), Cantina Chicken Quesadilla, and Cantina Chicken Bowl.
Those aren’t the only new chicken-centric items coming to the Taco Bell menu. There’s also the Cheesy Chicken Crispanada, featuring marinated and slow-cooked chicken.
Oh, and chicken nugget lovers, rejoice! Crispy Chicken Nuggets, made by marinating all-white chicken in spiced jalapeño buttermilk and frying them in a tortilla coating, are on their way.
This year, Taco Bell will also offer the Cheesy Enchilada Dipping Taco (slow-roasted chicken), and Cheesy Street Chalupa, which is available with slow-roasted chicken or grilled steak.
On the sweet side, Taco Bell is launching MTN DEW BAJA BLAST Gelato, and Dulce de Leche Cinnabon Delights.
As one might suspect, some of these items will be permanent, some will come in the form of LTOs. And if my suspicions prove correct, I think we’ll see a secret, unannounced menu item at least once in 2024.
Image: Taco Bell