Taco Bell rivals crave late-night edge

More fast-food restaurants are staying open later or going 24/7 in an effort to ramp up sales.

By Kim Peterson Aug 6, 2012 2:17PM
Image: Businessman devouring fries whilst driving car (© Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)Taco Bell has been the king of late-night fast food for years, selling diners on its fourthmeal nachos and tacos in the hours between dinner and breakfast.

The chain's rivals have taken notice, and they aren't as willing to cede the late-night hours anymore. McDonald's (MCD), Burger King (BKW) and others are stepping up their extended-dining options. And while they aren't advertising for the wee hours the way Taco Bell is, it's clear they hope to take a bite out of the fourthmeal strategy.

In the Tampa Bay area, for example, McDonald's has been aggressively expanding its 24-hour service. Now more than 70% of the 186 restaurants there are open 24 hours, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Nationally, about 40% of McDonald's restaurants never close.

McDonald's says the restaurants open 24 hours see about a 10% uptick in sales, writes the Times' Susan Thurston. One franchise owner told Thurston that never closing eliminates the expenses associated with shutting down the restaurant and then firing up the equipment again in the morning.

Taco Bell, owned by Yum Brands (YUM), says it decided to emphasize its fourthmeal because Americans are eating later than in the past. Nearly 45% of Taco Bell's key demographic -- males ages 18 to 29 -- eat later than 7 p.m. Taco Bell also found in 2006 that about 40% of Americans work a nontraditional schedule, meaning they put in hours late at night and on weekends or work extra-long shifts.

Burger King requires its restaurants to stay open until 11 p.m. or midnight, depending on the day of the week, but now several hundred are open 24 hours, The Wall Street Journal reports. A third of Dunkin' Donuts locations are open 24 hours as well. About a fifth of all employed Americans work in the evening, one sociology professor told the Journal.

"I think we really have moved to a clockless day," John Costello, the marketing chief for Dunkin' Brands (DNKN), told the Journal. "People are working longer hours, in many cases multiple jobs, and are more time-starved than ever before and they want the flexibility to have a full variety of products that aren't limited by time of day."

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Aug 6, 2012 11:32PM

"One franchise owner told Thurston that never closing eliminates the expenses associated with shutting down the restaurant and then firing up the equipment again in the morning." 

In other words the restaurants are rearly ever cleaned and prepped for the next days business.  Take a look the next time how flithy the floors, glass, soda machines, bathrooms. ect actually are.   Most all I have been in the last year or so that say open 24//7 are dirty, sticky, filthy places to actaully eat at........   Go to places that provide a good product in a clean enviroment............ 

Aug 7, 2012 1:50AM
Now you know why Taco Bell will be the only restaurant to survive the Franchise Wars.
Aug 7, 2012 1:36AM

Fourthmeal sounds better than midrats( midnight rations). Midrats are for watch standers and late workers on Navy ships since when at sea crews the ship operates 24hrs a day. Usualy made from left overs and stuff thrown together.  If you never had pizza made with American cheese be thankful.

Aug 7, 2012 12:07PM
If one works odd hours, one eats at non-traditional times. It is good that there are more choices now. When I was a musician in the '80s in San Antonio we used to go to Jim's Coffee House, Los Palapas or Whataburger after gigs. Good times! Actually, given a choice, I would prefer those three over Taco Bell, McDs or Jack-in-the-Box any time of day.
Aug 7, 2012 10:32AM
"Taco Bell has been the king of late-night fast food for years..." Really?  "Crave late night edge?" You must be kidding. Between the articles bashing McDonalds and the articles depicting Taco Bell as 'revolutionaly' I think that it has become clear that MSN is disguising paid advertisement from the YUM! parent corporation as legitimate news..One clearly planted 'story' about a Taco Bell franchise hoax in Alaska, was actually turned into a TV commercial.. They used to do the same thing for Bing against GOOGLE. It is really sad. While McDonalds/Burger King may not be as 'revolutionary,' I have NEVER heard of more people getting sick by consuming tainted/under-cooked product than I have at Taco Bell. I dont care which is the best fast food place, for the most part they are all equally unhealthy (I dont have a horse in this race..), but this fraudulent 'paid-for news' is a disgrace. From here on out, keep a mental tally of the negative stories for Burger King and McDonalds, and the postivie stories for YUM! (which includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC). You may be surprised by the lengths MSN will go to sell nasty tacos...
Aug 7, 2012 11:46AM
and you wonder why there is so much obesity in the U.S.
Aug 7, 2012 10:59AM

The drunk, desperate and sleep-deprived are an underserved market!

Aug 7, 2012 6:15PM
TB gets away with it cus their beans and meat "mixture" can sit in the steam table for days. Kinda hard to do that with burgers-leave em on the grill til they petrify. BK? why? BK onion rings give me gass-sss, big time
Aug 7, 2012 12:57AM
Kim Peterson, you should check your facts before writing any more stories. There is not a single McDonald's in Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay is a body of water and not the name of a city.
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