Taco Bell Isn't Chipotle

I couldn't have been the only one waiting for Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM  ) to post its quarterly results yesterday.

After billionaire hedge fund manager David Einhorn claimed that Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG  ) was feeling the heat from the revamped Taco Bell menu, it was going to be enlightening to see how the fast-food chain held up.

Well, Taco Bell did post impressive results. Same-store sales were up 7%. Clearly the springtime introduction of Doritos Locos tacos and the summertime launch of reality-show chef Lorena Garcia's Cantina Bell items are making a difference.

However, is it really enough of a difference to somehow eat into Chipotle's sales? I'm sorry, Einhorn. I don't see it that way.

After all, Taco Bell's comps were up 7%, but Pizza Hut and KFC weren't exactly slackers, showing same-store sales growth of 6% and 4%, respectively. In other words, there's a rising tide for all fast-food and fast-casual ships.

Taco Bell's comps also weren't as mind-blowing as the 13% spike it posted three months earlier. Could it be that the initial novelty of Doritos Locos -- tacos made in shells with the flavor made popular by spinoff sibling PepsiCo's (NYSE: PEP  ) nacho cheese Doritos -- was more alluring than the heartier shot at Chipotle's bowl business with Cantina Bell?

You probably know the answer, though we'll have to wait until Chipotle reports next week to know for sure.

We also have to consider that Taco Bell's comps during last year's third quarter clocked in with a decline of 2%. In other words, Taco Bell's same-store sales have climbed a rather pedestrian 5% over two years. Suddenly the one-two punch behind Doritos Locos and Cantina Bell doesn't seem all that impressive.

Taco Bell isn't Chipotle. Chipotle isn't Taco Bell.

Chipotle's rivals are Qdoba, Baja Fresh, Moe's, and the other fast-casual burrito rollers. Taco Bell's rivals are other fast-food chains with drive-through windows and cheap prices. There's a difference, and that's a difference that apparently isn't being made up for with Cantina Bell ringing.

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Rick Aristotle Munarriz has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Chipotle Mexican Grill and PepsiCo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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