Taco Bell is on a tear to grow from a $7-billion brand to a $14-billion category killer in the next 10 years, CEO Greg Creed told the audience at the Restaurant Leadership Conference. To get there, Creed said in his keynote address, the chain is on a mission for mas—more locations (up to 2,000 new stores), more flavor, more heart, more value.
"To drive growth we need to be better and more relevant than ever,” he explained. “We are hungry for mas. We want to feed people’s lives with mas. It is at the core of Taco Bell's brand essence and reflects how we interact with customers, team members, franchisees and stakeholders."
To reinforce the principles of the “Live Mas” campaign, Creed used the acronym HUNGRY:
Then he outlined specific ways Taco Bell is putting these principles into action, starting with the shift to how the QSR now regards food. According to Creed, the chain now views its products as “experiential,” and not just a means to fuel up.
Flavor extensions for Doritos Tacos Locos. With the phenomenal success of the item, Taco Bell has changed its R&D model from product innovation to platform innovation. Just launched and already a mega-hit, according to Creed, is a Cool Ranch version. He said the possible iterations are endless, given the extensive array of Doritos flavors that partner Frito-Lay has already developed.
Expansion of the Cantina Bell menu, developed by Top Chef contestant and corporate chef Lorena Garcia. Creed said the menu will be characterized by more upscale proteins, like steak, and fresh, premium ingredients.
Team members first. “The customer experience will never exceed the team member experience,” is Creed’s motto. Following this belief has dramatically improved the company, he added. Team members are the first to know what's going on, the first to try new items and the first to share their experiences and reactions to the introductions through social media. (When Doritos Tacos Locos were introduced, employees were asked to take the first bite and encouraged to post photos online and earn prizes.)
Boost customer engagement. Taco Bell is leveraging social media by creating conversations and events with what Creed called the brand’s advocates. “Listen, understand, engage, amplify, and track,” are the watchwords, he noted. “We track all social conversations with updates every 15 minutes.” One result of this diligent tracking was the unearthing of a Taco Bell hoax in Bethel, Alaska. Someone tricked the small city into thinking they were getting a Taco Bell, and when headquarters found out about all the disappointed residents, they helicoptered a truck into Bethel and served 10,000 fans Doritos Locos Tacos. The event went viral and garnered global publicity.
Move from marketing to publishing. Less advertising and more storytelling in real time is Taco Bell’s new strategy. The marketing team actually visited traditional publishers to learn. “Every day you have to publish an engagement story around something,” Creed explained. “But keep the content light and shareable. Food as experience doesn't require serious writing.”
Forever 22. To keep the brand young, partner with twenty-somethings for social media. They are the experts, plus they think it’s the best job in the world, said Creed, and companies must have the trust and confidence to let them loose.
“If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less,” he concluded.