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Food

Fans of Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza keep pressing their case

The item was removed last year, but with potatoes now back on the menu there may be some hope for a comeback.
Taco Bell Mexican Pizza
Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

Try this exercise: Look for a Taco Bell social media post—it doesn’t matter what platform—and see how long it takes to find a reply from a customer clamoring for the Mexican Pizza. You won’t need much time.

Since the fast-food Mexican chain removed the item from its menus last year as part of a massive purge, customers have been asking for its return with about the same fervor as did lovers of its potatoes. Which is to say quite a bit.

Most notably, because this is 2021, someone started a petition. It currently has 160,000 signatures. “This is an item loved by many, especially the South Asian community,” Krish Jagirdar said in starting the petition. “Losing this item would not only be the loss of one of our favorite foods but a piece of our childhood and heritage as Indian Americans.”

Fans of the product may well have some hope. Earlier this month, Taco Bell brought back its potatoes. And the company itself is not exactly discouraging hope that its Mexican Pizza could make a comeback, too.

“There are no current plans for a return of the Mexican Pizza,” a company representative said in a statement. “However, as you know well, Taco Bell is constantly listening to its fans and they never say never.”

Generally, restaurant chains will routinely remove items from their menus that don’t sell well, as part of an effort to improve operations and generate more long-term sales. Such strategies are risky, however, as chains can sometimes alienate customers who preferred the removed products.

Taco Bell’s same-store sales last year slowed, from 3% in the third quarter to 1% in the fourth quarter when the purge took place—though many other fast-food chains saw sales slow in the same period, too.

Taco Bell introduced the Mexican Pizza in 1988 with an ad proclaiming that, “It’s like pizza, but it’s different.” The product featured two crispy tortilla shells with ground beef and beans between them and topped with salsa, cheese, tomatoes and onions.

It was a staple until last year. The chain removed several items from its menu last year in two waves in August and again in November.

The pandemic sped such strategies last year, as chains sought to lower their food costs and improve service times—especially in the drive-thru, where chains saw business surge from about two-thirds of revenues to more than 90% in many cases.

That was a big reason Taco Bell opted to purge items from its menu. The company also said that it wanted to make room for new items in the coming months. The chain recently brought back the Quesalupa, for instance, and is testing the Chicken Sandwich Taco. “Every menu change made by Taco Bell is highly intentional,” the Taco Bell representative said.

Nevertheless, while many restaurant chain menu items were relegated to the dustbin last year, few generated the reaction as did Taco Bell’s potatoes and the Mexican Pizza.

The latter product has taken on a life of its own, however. The product’s fans never miss a chance to ask the chain to bring it back. And the petition has eight times the number of signatures of a similar petition created to get the chain to bring back potatoes. (Or, to provide an even starker contrast, a petition calling on McDonald’s to bring back its All-Day Breakfast, also removed during the pandemic, has just 100 signatures; then again, its breakfast is still available, unlike that pizza.)

And yet, Taco Bell brought back potatoes this month to great fanfare, while fans of the Mexican Pizza are still waiting.

In the statement, Taco Bell said “fan response was only one of many reasons that the brand brought back potatoes.”

So the potatoes gave lovers of that Mexican Pizza hope, but for now that’s all they have, and in the meantime they’ll hit Taco Bell’s social media managers any time they get the chance.

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