Is the country ready for a waffle-based taco shell folded around scrambled eggs and a sausage patty?
Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) is expanding the test of its Waffle Taco tomorrow, according to Nation's Restaurant News. The $0.89 breakfast offering that was only offered in three Southern California Taco Bell locations is expanding into roughly 100 different stores in three markets. Folks in Fresno, Omaha, and Chattanooga will be able to wake up to the crunchy yet salty concoction tomorrow, as well as other new items including a yogurt parfait, berry-topped oatmeal, and MTN Dew Kickstart.
That last item -- if you're curious -- is a PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) product that combines Mountain Dew and its own Tropicana orange juice. It was tested last year under the Mountain Dew A.M. moniker.
PepsiCo was originally Taco Bell's parent. The beverage giant spun off Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut several years ago. They are on their own now, but it's not a shock that those three happen to be among the few fast food chains that serve Pepsi beverages exclusively.
The Waffle Taco is going to turn heads. Talk show hosts will take their jabs, just as they poked fun at Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Taco line. That played out well. Taco Bell's comps have exploded since it spun the flavor wheel, soaring 8% in the U.S. last year alone.
Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) doesn't do flavor wheel spinning. It sticks to its cult fave staples of burritos, tacos, rice bowls, and salads.
Bulls will argue that Chipotle doesn't need breakfast.
Breakfast is big business. Marketing research giant NPD Group data shows that breakfast items make up 92% of the quick-service industry traffic growth over the past five years.
Sure, there are plenty of folks snaking through the queue at your local Chipotle, but wouldn't it be incremental if it took its "food with integrity" mantra and raised the bar on breakfast offerings the way it did for fast casual?
Chipotle is repeatedly asked by analysts at its conference calls about breakfast, and the chain has resisted the urge to open its locations early and expand its menu board. One can also argue that breakfast is a commuter grab, and you can't do that without drive-thru windows.
Then again, Subway is landlocked in strip malls at most of its locations. It's been offering breakfast for a couple of years now without the luxury of drive-thru windows at most of its sandwich shops. Chipotle won't be as crowded for breakfast as it is the rest of the day, but we are at the point where expanding its hours may be necessary.
Remember those double-digit percentage spikes in comps that Chipotle routinely reported when it went public in 2006? It's been battling just to keep pace with inflation these days, targeting same-restaurant sales to climb in the low to mid single digits this year. Taco Bell posted higher comps than Chipotle in this country last year.
It's time for Chipotle to roll out breakfast. It won't be the Waffle Taco. It won't be an omelet with cilantro-spiked rice. However, a carnitas breakfast sandwich or some barbacoa-topped huevos rancheros would be interesting enough to find its audience.
Wake up, Chipotle!
Wake up and smell the Waffle Taco.