Regardless of your personal preference, Taco Bell is an undeniably successful fast-food chain around the world. Since 2012, newly released menu options have garnered national attention from both consumers and media outlets. While some of the items such as the Gordita, the Chalupa, and the Quesalupa might seem like random concoctions hoping to create a novelty appeal, Taco Bell’s Insight Lab and massive sales figures suggest otherwise.
Crediting the success of these menu items to efforts focused on listening to customers and fulfilling their needs, chief food and beverage innovation officer at Taco Bell (Liz Matthews) says, “it all comes down to a problem, a hunch, or a common request from consumers.”
Taco Bell has a very organized Research and Development lab providing opportunities for employees to offer feedback, for product developers to review focus group findings, and for test-runs in a replicated kitchen to ensure order speed and accuracy. The end results may appear simple, but the insanely popular Doritos Locos Taco “took 30 iterations, six production lines, and a lot of negative feedback from consumer test groups to perfect.”
Again debunking the theory that Taco Bell’s menu is full of novelty items, after the release of the Doritos Locos Taco in 2012 the menu item sold 100 million units in its first 10 weeks. Further evidence that listening to customer wants and needs, and using feedback to guide product development, helps align what companies are offering with what consumers will purchase.
Liz Matthews continued to say, “In research groups, consumers often said they liked putting potato chips in their sandwiches. Others said they loved the flavor of Doritos. It took some time before the dots connected and the Doritos Locos Taco was born. The biggest thing for us is to always be listening. Once you do that, things start to fall into place. We’re always listening to the consumer and always exploring and trying new things.”
“But for all the buzz it creates across the country, the innovation process at Taco Bell goes far beyond gimmicks. Melissa Friebe, vice president of Taco Bell’s Insights Lab, isn’t trying to make headlines with product ideas. She’s simply responding to consumer demand.”