Taco Bell to pick up the pace

Bangalore | Updated on January 08, 2011 Published on January 07, 2011

A view of Taco Bell fast food at Mantri Square in Bangalore .Photo by G R N Somashekar.   -  Business Line

Bangalore:04/01/2011:A view of Taco Bell fast food at Mantri Square in Bangalore. Photo by G R N Somashekar.   -  Business Line

While the past decade saw Indians getting comfortable with pizza and pasta on restaurant menus, Yum! Restaurants, the fast-food brands restaurant operator with outlets such as Pizza Hut and KFC under its umbrella, launched its Mexican offering, Taco Bell, early last year.

But unlike its other food brands, Yum! is taking measured steps in expanding Taco Bell's footprint in India. The second store was opened in December 2010, seven months after the first one, again in Bangalore. But the Mexican food chain has already Indianised its menu, creating products with paneer and almost half its offering targeted at veggies.

“We plan to accelerate our pace of growth in 2011 with more store openings,” Ashok Bajpai, General Manager, Taco Bell India, told Brand Line in an interview. Excerpts:

Taco Bell has been in India for more than six months now but you have gone slow on expansion, opening the second store only recently. What took you so long to take the second step in India?

We differentiate ourselves by offering a compelling variety of Mexican-inspired food that is abundant, packed with taste and at prices that are difficult to match. With this foundation of offering taste at great value, our store launches have received an overwhelming response. We plan to accelerate our pace of growth in 2011 with more store openings in Bangalore. We have ambitious plans for Taco Bell and intend to make it the leader in the QSR (quick service restaurant) segment across the country.

All non-Indian food brands (especially in QSR) are changing the way they offer products and services to the Indian customer. While some are going Indian with their menus, others are expanding their menu offerings (such as Pizza Hut offering wines). Do you see Taco Bell changing itself in the time to come? And what kind of changes do you foresee?

Taco Bell has an array of products waiting to be introduced in India, and Indian consumers have just begun the journey of experiencing the world of Taco Bell's vast menu. We have a line of products planned for 2011 that are bound to raise the bar on taste and value for money for the Indian consumer. However, we will remain Mexican-inspired in our cuisine.

Currently, almost 50 per cent of the menu is vegetarian. Taking this a step forward, in order that the Indian vegetarian consumer experiences the same taste profile, we have created products such as the Crunchy Taco Potato and the Potato and Paneer Burrito, all using our special Mexican-inspired sauces and seasonings.

We have also enhanced the flavour of several of our menu items and recently launched the Volcano Range which has received a strong response.

What makes Taco Bell unique is our freshly prepared food. The food is freshly assembled after the order has been placed instead of being prepared in advance and stored. Soft drinks (Pepsi) refills are free, something that has never been seen in the Indian QSR market.

What is the acceptance level among Indians for non-Indian food? Have you done any studies? If yes, please share some details.

The response has been simply overwhelming. Taco Bell India has witnessed some of the highest volumes of customers in the world.

Furthermore, looking forward, we see a new generation of young Indians who are avid travellers and are open to experimenting. The Indian consumer is an informed consumer, fully aware of products and what is available abroad.

Many have visited our stores abroad and have really loved the Taco Bell experience. Our consumer research has been very encouraging and indicates a rising acceptance of international tastes and experiences.

What are your expansion plans for Taco Bell and what are the different formats you are looking at?

Given the high-growth potential of our brand, we will be investing in a large number of equity stores in Bangalore to begin with before the national roll-out begins. Taco Bell will continue to gain prominence through its QSR format.

How have rising commodity prices affected your pricing? Have you made any changes in the last six months?

Yes, the rising commodity prices directly escalate our input costs and do affect the end product in any retail business. For us too, commodity prices have been a challenge in the recent past but we have maintained and stabilised the rates of our offerings. Our prices continue to be among the most affordable in the industry and provide great value.

What is the investment per store in a Taco Bell outlet? When do you see your outlets breaking even?

Investments are in line with industry trends. We are at the beginning of our journey in India and are looking to refine the consumer proposition at the moment. We will continue to innovate and set new standards in providing value and a unique taste to our consumers in India.

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Published on January 07, 2011
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