Taco Bell Not Waffling on Breakfast

Expanding size of waffle taco test, beginning yogurt parfait, oatmeal tests

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Taco Bell said it is expanding its small test of waffle tacos as it prepares to take its breakfast menu national sometime next year, reported the Associated Press.

The fast-food chain said the waffle taco, which includes scrambled eggs, sausage and a side of syrup, was the top seller during breakfast hours at the five Southern California restaurants where it was tested earlier this year. Now the company wants to see how it would fare on a bigger scale; the waffle tacos and a full breakfast menu will be expanded to about 100 restaurants in Fresno, Calif., Omaha, Neb., and Chattanooga, Tenn., starting Aug. 8.

Brian Niccol, chief marketing officer for Taco Bell, said the idea is partly to get a better sense of how well restaurants will be able to handle the added operational pressure from the waffle tacos.

"You only get one shot when you go with big items," he told the news agency.

Taco Bell already offers breakfast at about 850 locations in 10 Western states, and has been tinkering with new items such as the waffle taco before rolling it out to its 6,000 U.S. locations. Also starting Thursday, it will begin testing a yogurt parfait and oatmeal at additional locations, AP said.

Taco Bell is not alone in trying to serve food in different dayparts. Since restaurant chains are already paying for fixed costs of such as rent and electricity, the thinking is that they want to ring up as many sales as possible throughout the day, not just during the busy lunch and dinner hours.

McDonald's, for example, has been testing an "After Midnight" menu that mixes breakfast and lunch items. Taco Bell has also been promoting a "Happier Hour," which features snacks and drinks intended to attract customers in the late afternoon, when business tends to be slower.

Louisville, Ky.-based Yum Brands Inc., the parent company of Taco Bell, clearly sees breakfast as its next big opportunity, said AP. In a conference call with analysts last month, Yum president Richard Carucci said that breakfast has accounted for about 4% of sales in restaurants where it's been available.

"But this is before we've now dialed it up," he said.

Since Taco Bell introduced the waffle taco in March, the company has tweaked it, including changing the frying time and temperature, Niccol said. And it changed the shape of the taco, which has 460 calories and 30 grams of fat, to make it easier to hold the filling.

If it does as well in the expanded test as it did at the five locations, Niccol said he doesn't see why it wouldn't be on the national menu.