The Rise and Fall of Taco Bell in Mexico: An In-Depth Analysis

Taco Bell in Mexico

If you are a fan of Mexican food, you surely know Taco Bell. Here we will tell you about the rise and fall of Taco Bell in Mexico.

Taco Bell is an important American chain of restaurants that offer Tex-Mex style fast food. It is important to mention that Taco Bell is a subsidiary of Yum!Brands, Inc. and its restaurants offer dishes such as tacos, quesadillas, burritos and nachos.

This U.S. chain has tried to enter the Mexican market on two occasions, so here we will analyze its trajectory in Mexico to understand the dynamics of the market and why Taco Bell in Mexico did not succeed.

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History of Taco Bell

The creator of Taco Bell was Glen Bell, a war veteran who opened in 1946 a hot dog stand in San Bernardino, California, and months later sold it to set up Bell’s Drive In, a fast food business that offered hamburgers and hot dogs. However, due to the rise of other chains such as McDonald’s, he had to change his business model to one inspired by Mexican food, more specifically Tex-Mex cuisine, since San Bernardino had a large Mexican immigrant community.

His first product was a hot dog with chili sauce and due to its good acceptance he started with the Taco Tia franchise. Officially founded Taco Bell in 1962 in Downey and in 1964 sold its first franchise, three years later the group already had 12 of its own restaurants and 325 franchises throughout the United States.

Glen Bell sold its franchise to PepsiCo in February 1978 and quickly became the leading Tex-Mex fast food chain. In this new restructuring, they introduced more economical products and added some dishes that made it clear that their meals were for various types of customers and not exclusively for Mexican immigrants.

The success of Taco Bell led its owners to expand their franchise to international markets (1991), however, in countries such as Mexico it was not very successful.

History of Taco Bell in Mexico

Taco Bell in Mexico entered the market on two occasions, the first was in 1992, and later in 2007, however, on both occasions it did not obtain the desired results, so it closed its operations.

In 1992 Taco Bell in Mexico opened a branch in Mexico City, however, the response was regular, and the consumers did not consider that the products of this franchise were attractive to the palate, and in 2007 I had a similar response for the same reasons, their products do not adapt to what Mexicans are used to eat.

Taco Bell’s strategies and marketing in the United States and other countries

In the United States, Taco Bell continues to focus more on traditional marketing, with most of its budget usually focused on television commercials.

The U.S. franchise has studied its audience in detail, so it is clear what works for them, and a large group of its target audience is still connected to old-school channels such as television and radio.

For example, most of its consumers like to watch sports on TV, so Taco Bell in the US buys advertising space during televised sporting events, on channels such as ESPN, during soccer and basketball season.

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Taco Bell in Mexico

However, Taco Bell does not leave aside social networks, in this field it focuses mainly on collaborations with influencers and content creators, so it has established a solid presence on platforms such as TikTok, X and Instagram. In addition, this franchise’s commercials are often considered funny to Americans, menu innovations are also considered a favorable strategy for Taco Bell.

In countries such as China, Brazil and Canada the strategy they have implemented is somewhat similar and it is in these countries that Taco Bell has managed to be successful. In addition to this, Taco Bell usually adapts to other cultures, an example of this is in India and Japan, while in India they added vegetarian options and dishes with local flavors, in Japan they added typical ingredients of the region, which makes diners feel that Taco Bell respects and appreciates local cultures.

Taco Bell in Mexico strategy and marketing

Taco Bell in Mexico does not have an easy time, as it does not offer products that appeal to Mexicans. In Taco Bell in Mexico‘s first attempt, they started with a food cart in Mexico City, where they served a fairly limited menu of soft tacos and burritos with Pepsi.

Problems with the strategy and marketing of Taco Bell in Mexico arose from the beginning, because of the inauthentic names they had to change, even the type of dishes they offered, an example of this is the crunchy taco (crunchy taco is not common in Mexico) they changed it to Tacostada in order to contextualize the toasted taco, however, this did not work since it was not pleasant for the diners.

In addition to this, even though Taco Bell has good strategies and marketing in the United States and other countries in America, Asia and Europe, in Mexico they use the same type of strategy, a big mistake and it must be emphasized that the Aztec territory is where the taco was born, so their way of entering the market should be different from the one they offer in other countries, Especially because the advertising they offer is culturally insensitive, and the representation of the most popular brand is a Chihuahua dog asking for more Taco Bell tacos, which can be considered disrespectful, since traditional gastronomy is really important for Mexicans.

Taco Bell in Mexico should focus on Mexican culture, not American culture (with adaptations with Mexican touches also known as Tex-Mex) because Mexican diners do not really know what they are eating, and Mexicans have a great gastronomic heritage identity.

In conclusion, Taco Bell in Mexico’s strategy has failed because they have not known how to adapt to what Mexicans need.

Taco Bell in Mexico

What are the challenges facing Taco Bell in Mexico?

Taco Bell in Mexico has several obstacles to overcome to become profitable in the Aztec country and one of the main ones is that it fails to have a deep connection with Mexican culture and traditional foods that characterize it, this problem could be considered atypical for the company because Taco Bell if it adapts to the culture in other countries such as China, Japan, India and Brazil, perhaps because it has a misperception of what are the true gastronomic customs of the country.

Therefore, Taco Bell in Mexico should begin to understand that tacos are more than just a food for Mexicans, and that this dish is considered part of the country’s identity and cultural heritage. Ideally, Taco Bell in Mexico should do a thorough research on the diversity of authentic Mexican tacos and come up with an adaptation that will convince the country’s diners.

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It should be noted that the most popular authentic Mexican tacos are tacos al pastor, carnitas and barbacoa. In addition, each region has its own variations and preparation techniques, so it is not so difficult to adapt to the style that Mexican diners like.

In addition, some Mexican diners consider that Taco Bell does not offer a good cultural perception of the country, therefore, they do not want to consume its products. In conclusion, the lack of connection with Mexican culture, the remoteness of the dishes offered with traditional food, the price and the fierce competition from local taquerias and street vendors, which offer authentic Mexican food at a better price, have made Taco Bell in Mexico a failure.

Cultural and culinary differences between Taco Bell and traditional Mexican cuisine.

The reality is that Taco Bell in Mexico did not offer Mexican food and that is the main reason why it was not successful. This franchise is more of an American version of traditional Mexican food, i.e. Tex-Mex, therefore, it should not establish strategies that sell its dishes as Mexican food.

Here we will tell you about the cultural and culinary differences that made Taco Bell in Mexico fail:

Tex-Mex Taco

The first thing to note is that the U.S. taco is different from the Mexican, and is that these are usually in the form of toasted tortilla and folded in half, leaving a space for the ingredients in the middle. Inside this type of taco there are usually beans, chili, shredded chicken and grilled meat, in addition to mayonnaise, guacamole, jalapeño, chipotle or ranch dressing, bacon, tomato sauce, onion, lettuce and tomato.

It should also be noted that the corn tortilla is made with yellow corn, while the Mexican is made with white corn, in addition, Tex-Mex tacos are crunchy, which makes them somewhat difficult to eat compared to the Mexican.

Among the comments made by Mexicans about Taco Bell in Mexico are those who say that the product is not good, since they consider it to be an inferior and Americanized version of the traditional Mexican one. In addition, many Mexicans do not consider attractive the offer of hard shell tacos filled with ground beef (tacos are not filled with ground beef in Mexico) and processed cheese, a combination to which they are definitely not accustomed.

Mexican Taco

The Mexican taco has many varieties, so it depends a lot on the region you are in. There are hard tacos, known as golden tacos fried in oil and soft tacos.

Both golden tacos and flautas are topped with traditional and fresh ingredients, rolled and then fried in oil to give them a hard consistency, while soft tacos are topped with the ingredients, rolled and may or may not be lightly oiled.

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In Mexico, in addition to offering traditional corn tacos, they also offer tacos with pita bread, which are also called Arab tacos.

The ingredients in the tacos are varied, many are filled with seasoned meat, such as tacos al pastor, arrachera, cochinita pibil and carne asada. There are also vegetable tacos such as chiles rellenos, beans or pico de gallo (with avocado, cilantro and tomato), while in coastal cities you can enjoy tacos with seafood, swordfish and shrimp.

It should be noted that the Taco Bell taco is definitely not a Mexican taco, so it will not be successful in Mexico if it is not adapted to the culture or if it is not promoted as Tex-Mex and not Mexican food.

All this leads us to understand that the failure of Taco Bell in Mexico is mainly due to its inability to adapt to what identifies Mexican consumers.

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