Andrea Sordi, clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee’s Global Supply Chain Institute, weighs the risk and rewards involved in Taco Bell’s decision to introduce a major new product to its menu during the pandemic.
Later this year, Taco Bell will begin testing a Beyond Meat product to be added to its regular menu. The move can be seen as a desire to remain innovative while fulfilling the tastes of a younger generation of health-conscious customers. But it also entails a certain amount of risk, given uncertainties surrounding the near-term condition of the economy, and the shifting buying behaviors of consumers.
Nevertheless, Sordi believes that Taco Bell has a good chance of succeeding in that effort, in part because it’s already considered the vegetarian choice of many fast-food customers. (Even though it recently cut some vegetarian options from its menu.) The combination of that positive brand image and historically low prices could allow the company to tap into a new consumer segment, he says.=has
Taco Bell faces the same challenges as other fast-food chains in the pandemic, most notably the need to ensure the continued health and safety of its workforce. Fast-food kitchens typically require a high degree of physical proximity among staff, but Sordi says the chain has been working to properly distance workers and supply protective equipment. “Ultimately, their business is based on that workforce,” he adds, “so it’s in their interest to keep them safe and coming to work.”
Additional advantages enjoyed by Taco Bell as a fast-food leader include its heavy reliance on drive-through traffic, and a business model built on a digital platform. The latter gives the company a degree of agility, which could be one reason why Taco Bell’s recent financial results are better than the industry norm.
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