Inside Taco Bell’s Willy Wonkaesque Food Development Lab

July 25, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

J. Bennett had the opportunity to visit Taco Bell’s food development lab. In addition to an expanded waistline he got insights on Taco Bell’s menu development process:

  • Taco Bell is now known for its more esoteric menu items like the Taco Shell made out of Doritos, or a quesadilla inside a burrito.
  • Taco Bell sees itself as a food innovation company. Bringing creative items to the menu is key to remaining relevant by generating headlines in the news, and discussion on social media.
  • Things begin with ideation sessions where as many as 600 ideas a year are considered.
  • For the 30 that are selected for advanced consideration, the next step is to nail down the recipe – an iterative process that requires as many as 40 tries.
  • Reactions are gauged in part through sensory rooms, where tasters are led into small cubicles equipped with cameras to record the reaction as they try the product.
  • The product is then tried out in test markets, and various metrics are measured, such as the ratio of likes to dislikes (7:1 is considered good), percentage of customers who order it (12% is good, though with the Doritos Taco it was 33%), and if the product is generating new sales, or is merely redirecting money from existing products.
  • If the product is received well it rolls out nationally. The entire process takes about six to nine months.
  • Most items that result from this process don’t stay on the menu for too long. Once the buzz has died down and the headlines stop coming, the items are quietly removed.
  • Some of the products that Taco Bell is experimenting with include a burger burrito, a maple-butter flavoured cone filled with crispy chicken, a mac & cheese quesadilla, and multiple variations of food on an edible tortilla stick.

Read more about what it’s like in the labs over here.

Source: Thrillist