The creator of the Chalupa and Doritos Taco is promising to leave the industry a-shudder on Super Bowl Sunday with the introduction of its “biggest food innovation yet.”
So what is this game-changer of a product that Taco Bell is winding up to pitch?
You could torture the Chihuahua and still not get the chain to talk. Just think big, the chain hinted in a teaser of an announcement last week. Really, really big.
And who is more apt to think big than the employees of Winsight Media, the parent company of Restaurant Business? Many of them have been known to heft a Waffle Taco or two. Others would rather be caught with a Barney ringtone than admit they enjoy the occasional Crunch Wrap. So they know what Taco Bell would have to add to merit their business.
We’ve asked them to predict what this new blockbuster product might be, based on their impressions of the brand, what’s happening in the restaurant industry and the sort of product they’d like to see available.
Read on for the specifics. Then share your predictions via our Facebook page.
A Cheetos breakfast torta?
The item would have to be portable, suggested Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, the research arm of Winsight. And the brand’s big successes have come in the form of mash-ups with a retail brand like Fritos. Add the industry’s infatuation with all-day breakfast, and there’s only one thing the Mystery Product can be: a Sriracha-infused Cheetos torta layered with avocado, scrambled egg and porridge.
No doubt about it: A Fajitaurito Bowl
A GuacaMole Fajitaurito Bowl, to be exact, says Alaina Lancaster, RB’s assistant editor. She must have inside information, because she can even provide a recipe: fajita meat, rice and beans in a soft-shell tortilla bowl topped with sauce that, in a fit of R&D wizardry, is both mole and guacamole.
No, it’s definitely the Quesalupa
There’s a conviction among some staff members that the new breakthrough absolutely, positively has to be taco components nestled inside a chalupa-style (i.e., chewy, deep fried) shell, a.k.a. the Quesalupa. They point to considerable online buzz about the possibility.
But the Quesalupa isn’t even new. It was tested on a limited scale last year, and even snared the attention of late-night talk show hosts. Does that sound like something that’s going to stun consumers with its novelty?
Something in the waffle family?
“Maybe a waffle quesadilla?” wondered Lauren Hallow, the concept specialist for Technomic. “I know the chicken and waffles trend has kind of hit its peak, but I think Taco Bell could make a chicken and waffle quesadilla work. I'd also like to see them turn toward street food, maybe debut some bacon-and-egg empanadas, or even a dessert empanada stuffed with Nutella.”
How about a tonier dessert than the ChocoTaco?
A dessert is a definite possibility, agrees Pat Cobe, senior editor of Restaurant Business and the publication’s resident menu authority.
“Taco Bell is pretty lame when it comes to dessert,” she says. “With ice cream sandwiches such a big trend now, I'm betting on a sweet taco shell filled with ice cream and dusted with cinnamon sugar. Or even dusted with a sprinkling of chocolate ground with dried chilies. Maybe this is a chance to customize the ice cream taco with different flavors of ice cream and dustings.”
A street taco?
“Do they do authentic street tacos?” asks Greg Lindenberg, online editor for RB’s sister publication serving the C-store field, CSP. “I see that everywhere now. That would be a serious guess. Another would be a fish taco.”
On the less-serious side: “The Segway Burrito,” an innovation just as hyped as the invention by Dean Kamen. “In other words, it won’t be quite as revolutionary as Taco Bell wants to imply,” says Lindenberg.
Definitely a flatbread. Doused in Sriracha.
The millennial brother of Kayley Bogdan, RB’s project manager for Custom Marketing Solutions, knows what he’d like to find on his frequent visit to Taco Bell. “He said he wished they offered a flatbread,” said Bogdan, “so maybe they’re going to do a riff on pizza? Probably with Sriracha.”