Taco Bell fires cheap shot in price war

The chain's "$1 Cravings" menu takes aim at similar low-cost offerings from McDonald's, Del Taco and other fast-food outlets.

By Jason Notte May 3, 2013 4:35PM

Taco Bell restaurant in Richmond, Virginia (c) Steve Helber/AP Photo)If you really thought that Yum Brands (YUM) was just going to sit back and let the likes of Del Taco and McDonald's (MCD) move in on its cheese-piled, concoction-driven, low-cost menu, then you clearly haven't downed a Crunchwrap in some time.


Fed up with Del Taco plying its hazier patrons with chili cheese fry burritos and McDonald's going after its more cogent customers with an enhanced Dollar Menu and rumors of all-day breakfast, Taco Bell is coming out like a boss and smacking its competitors with a new "$1 Cravings" menu that should replace its multi-tiered "Why Pay More Menu" offerings.


So what does The Associated Press say Taco Bell customers in test markets including Kansas City, Mo., and Sacramento, Calif., are getting for a buck? A Beefy Cheesy Burrito, a Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito, a Beefy Nacho Loaded Griller grilled burrito, Spicy Beef and Shredded Chicken mini quesadillas, a Spicy Potato Soft Taco, a taco-style Beef Crunchito, Triple-Layer Nacos and desserts including two types of churros and a Caramel Apple Empanada.


Consumers can go ahead and tell fast-food tracking firms like Technomic that they prefer the freshness of the food at Wendy's (WEN); Taco Bell knows full well that its calorie-laden Doritos Locos Tacos mashup with PepsiCo (PEP) are not only boosting sales, but also saving its brand.


A core contingent of fast-food customers still loves nothing more than a cheap, quick, loaded foodstuff that's inherently unhealthy in mass quantities. That's why they're in line at Taco Bell, Del Taco, Burger King (BKW) and elsewhere instead of hopping aboard the soup-and-salad express at Panera Bread (PNRA).


They're just not willing to pay a whole lot for that grease and cheese product, which makes menus like the one Taco Bell is testing all the more alluring. Granted, McDonald's sales sank last quarter despite bringing back the Dollar Menu, but that chain's experiments with coffee, smoothies, chicken wraps and fish bites have muddled its clarity of purpose a bit.


Taco Bell has never tried to be anything but what it is: a cheap, multinational taco stand unafraid to use its ingredients in every ghastly combination imaginable. If a customer so much as tacks on a $1 churro to their Doritos Locos Taco order, Taco Bell will have successfully chummed the waters with its bargain bait.

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May 3, 2013 5:28PM
It is good for the customer on a budget and wants a quick meal, the price of everything is going up these days, so it is nice to have something for a deal.  Just do it in moderation.
May 3, 2013 9:03PM
Dollar menus are great for those of us on a budget. Hey guys, it's fast food! If you want a healthy meal, make it yourself or spend big bucks at a health food restaurant. There are a lot of people who just plain can't afford any more. There is still a recession going on in millions of American homes.
May 3, 2013 6:19PM
Tacos and burritos on the cheap.  I'm all for it.  The toilet paper industry will get a little boost too with all the explosive diarrhea going around.
People are fat today because they sit on their rear end all day at work and go home to sit on their computer or watch TV. Before we had all these sit on your duff conveniences it was rare for someone to be fat. Back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s we ate food with a lot higher calories than they have today. We used Crisco,  lard and big breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and all the fattening foods. Yes McDonald,s was around in the 50s and before all the so called health craze the food was fixed with fattening products and boy was the food delicious.  
May 3, 2013 7:31PM
love it,  the stuckups try to down toco bell and the others, tellng someone they need to go eat at a place that will take most of their free and usable money, guess they never lived in the real world you know the one where there is never quite enough, even though they work their butts off, where they can out manage most with a degree because they have the experience of having to budget every penny, where they do not have nice 401k matching funds, wonder how they will find enough money to buy gas t go to work, but hey, a dollar item..cannot have that...ever.....dolts.....grow up and realize that life is not all roses for a lot of people.

May 3, 2013 5:31PM

Get ready for all the fake foodies to come in with their usual "fast food suck" and "I never eat there" post.  lol


May 3, 2013 7:09PM
We have GOT to keep the prices DOWN !!!  We don't want to go in there and spend most of a $20 bill every time !!!
May 3, 2013 5:25PM
It's cheaper for poor people to eat fast food than cook. So they get fat and unhealthy.
May 3, 2013 11:52PM

a taco at taco bell is $1.19


the exact same taco at del taco is $0.59...on Tuesday,they are 3 for $1.09...that's 3 tacos for less than one at taco bell


a bean burrito at taco bell is $1.19...made with pre cooked packed beans out of a plastic bag


a bean burrito at del taco,made with slow cooked beans that are slow cooked there in the store from scratch,is $0.50


taco bell has priced themselves out of the market....I can go down most main streets in so cal and get a street taco for a buck,with real steak or chicken

May 3, 2013 6:59PM
i never see mexicans eating at taco bell?
May 3, 2013 8:37PM
I used to love Taco Bell but it really seems like the quality and value have gone down hill, haven't eaten there in a long time.
May 3, 2013 7:42PM
Taco bell in Kingman Az sure does NOT serve anything like the above. You buy a taco it is filled with maybe a fourth teaspoon of meat, same amy of cheese and a half cup of lettuce. I call them lettuce tacos. Burritos are the same, just no lettuce. When you go there you pay for lettuce and get the rest thrown in. I even told them I would buy them a few pounds of meat and cheese if they were that short, but they didn't want me to. It does no good to complain either, as nothing has changed there.
May 3, 2013 9:11PM
I would go to Taco Bell more if they would go back to the old way of making their grilled stuffed burritos and get rid of the taco bowl thing. They apparently thought by cramming everything with cilantro it would sell like hot cakes. WRONG!
May 3, 2013 7:42PM
wendys is winning becasue they have the best quality/tasting hamburger
May 4, 2013 2:17AM

taco bell rules!!!!!

dollar menus are the best thing ever

i make plenty of money - never set foot in our panera...too expensive for just food

besides...Taco Bell makes better tasting food


29cent taco Sundays are a fond memory from the 80's lol.

May 4, 2013 7:54AM
They're going to need more low-priced offerings. regular prices in the fast food restaurants are starting to approach the cost of whole subs or 44 oz. combos in Chinese carryouts.  I can get 1/2 lb. of steamed shrimp, a crab cake, and two sides like fries and coleslaw for $10 on Wednesdays at a mid-quality sit-down restaurant south of Baltimore.  Or I can spend $9.10 at Wendy's for Meal #1 and a large chili.
May 4, 2013 12:16AM
The problem is that Taco Bell, along with a few other fast food chains, introduce these great $1 deals then either discontinue them, or slowly raise the price.  It wasn't that long ago I was paying $1 for a 5 layer burrito at TB... then it wento to 1.49, then 1.99 and now it's at 2.39.  It's totally bait and switch.
May 3, 2013 4:57PM
These fast food companies are undercutting each other with their dollar menus. While this is good for consumers the quality of these food are going down. Taco bell beef is less than 50% beef so it should be called a food-like substance. I dont know how they can expect to have constant growth over the years as the quality of food and service decreases.
May 4, 2013 2:20AM
Taco Bell has long since abandoned the vision of its founder, the late Glen Bell. Glen emphasized the "fast" in fast food. The original Taco Bell's menu was limited to tacos, tostadas, hamburgers (made with taco meat), and cups of beans, with coffee, milk, or cola to drink. Today one can wait several minutes for his order to be filled; then it rarely took as long as a minute.
May 3, 2013 9:09PM
 I think Taco Bell should clean up their restraunts first, the health department has enough to do...
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