Taco Bell waffle taco: Chain expands breakfast test

Taco Bell waffle taco follows a recent trend in fast food: breakfast reimagined as a sandwich. Successful in Southern California, the Taco Bell waffle taco will be tested in 100 more restaurants nationwide starting Thursday. 

Taco Bell/AP/File
The Taco Bell waffle taco is the fast-food chain;s top seller during breakfast hours at the five Southern California restaurants where they were tested earlier this year. So the chain is rolling out the waffle taco to 100 more restaurants across the country.

The landscape of Mexican-style breakfast offerings is far from barren. In addition to that brunch staple huevos rancheros, pretty much any traditional Mexican dish can become breakfast with the addition of eggs – burritos, quesadillas, nachos, you name it.

It might stand to reason, then, that the poster food for a Mexican-style fast food chain’s venture into the breakfast market would have be something like huevos rancheros or a breakfast burrito. Alas, it is not the case.

Instead, Taco Bell’s move to morning involves a different trend taking hold in the fast food industry: breakfast items repurposed as sandwich bread. Dunkin’ Donuts has the Donut breakfast sandwich, McDonald’s has McGriddles, and now Taco Bell has a waffle taco.

The chain announced Tuesday that it would be expanding testing of its waffle taco –a breakfast wrap with eggs and sausage folded into, you guessed it, a waffle, with a side of syrup. The sandwich was successful in initial limited testing in Southern California this past spring; Thursday, it will go on sale on 100 more locations in Fresno, Calif., Omaha, Neb., and Chattanooga, Tenn.

The expansion will also include more traditional breakfast fare, including a fruit yogurt parfait and oatmeal.

Taco Bell has been gradually incorporating breakfast over the past year and a half: It first started testing a “First Meal” menu in 800 locations in 10 states back in early 2012. It’s also started advertising breakfast in certain markets, and top brass has hinted that a national rollout could be looming as early as 2014. The tentative breakfast offerings do include the Mexican-inspired, including a burrito and the “AM Crunchwrap” – scrambled eggs, hash browns, and bacon or sausage wrapped in a fried tortilla.

But the buzziest of the bunch is the waffle taco, and in making it the focal point of the breakfast push, Taco Bell accomplishes two seemingly disparate goals. For one, it plays to the chain’s courting of its desired millennial target market with slightly edgy fare that makes for good social media conversation.

The chain’s Doritos Locos taco is the most successful recent example of this tactic. With well over 500 million sales since launching last year, the Doritos Locos taco turned the fortunes of the entire franchise around and left other chains scrambling to repeat its success with wacky offerings all their own (recent examples: the Donut breakfast sandwich, Burger King Bacon Sundae, and Subway’s Frito-filled “Crunchy Chicken Enchilada Melt,” among others). With the waffle taco, Taco Bell is trying to hit another home run.

But the waffle taco also hints at the chain aiming for a broader appeal with its breakfast menu. Other than the taco shape, there isn’t much that’s Tex-Mex about it. And supporting menu items, lime yogurt, and Cinnabon bites are about as traditional as breakfast fare gets.

So Taco Bell is still all about highly targeted marketing, but it may be hedging its bets a little for the morning crowd. 

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