Taco Bell Tuesday

No research, straight to the monkey.

Taco Bell letting customers drive ideas: OK, remember my vaguely paranoid post from July outlining my suspicion that someone in Taco Bell’s marketing department reads this blog? Remember how I pointed out that the dude whose story was featured in one of the first Doritos Locos Tacos commercials was a friend of loyal reader/commenter Catsmeat’s, and that the first “significant discovery event” on his video’s YouTube page was being embedded on TedQuarters? Check out this quote from Taco Bell Chief Marketing Officer Brian Niccol:

The way we thought about launching it was, What’s the story? We wouldn’t have sold 100 million Doritos Locos Tacos in ten weeks if all we did was say, It’s a new product and you’re going to love it because it’s now made with Doritos. We really listened in a different way for this program, to what people were tweeting and saying on Facebook. And that’s how we got our launch execution. We found out this kid drove 900 miles to Ohio get a hold of a DLT during the market testing, and it became inspiration for the commercial….

With the DLT we’ve proven to ourselves that if you can let go of some of the control, then good things can happen. And that’s changed things here at the office. Since the the DLT success, we’ve knocked down three conference rooms and created a new social-mobile listening room, where we’ve got the largest TV screens I’ve ever seen keeping track of what people are saying about our brand every day and everywhere.

Taco Bell has “the largest TV screens [Taco Bell CMO Brian Niccol has] ever seen keeping track of what people are saying” about Taco Bell online. Which means…. HELLO, PEOPLE OF TACO BELL! THANK YOU FOR READING TEDQUARTERS ON YOUR GIANT SCREEN! PLEASE INCORPORATE CRUNCHY RED STRIPS INTO MORE THINGS!

So, you know, my suspicions grow. I will be pretty miffed if Taco Bell rolls out the interactive design-your-own-menu-item interface I’ve been pitching since 2009 (and outlined again during my campaign for the job eventually given to Niccol) without at least giving me face-time in the commercials. I have experience!

Seriously, Taco Bell: It’s love. It’s all love. If you’re out there reading, know that I am a reasonably smart guy who spends a lot of time thinking about Taco Bell. We can make this work for both of us, I’m certain.

Denver-area Taco Bell apparently popular among hookers: There’s plenty to enjoy in Jenn Wohletz’s experiential column on trying the new Taco Bell menu items at a Taco Bell on East Colfax Ave. in Denver, but nothing quite jumps off the page to a Denver outsider like her note that at 7 p.m. the Taco Bell in question “was ringed with a circus of homeless people, hustlers and a couple of angry-looking hookers.”

I followed up with a Denver native and asked, “What do you know about the area around E. Colfax Ave. in Denver?” He replied, “Full of hookers.” So it seems to make sense that some of the more sensible hookers would find their way to the Taco Bell, since obviously hookers need to eat, too.

In my experience, there is little to no correlation between seediness and quality in Taco Bells. Some of the best and worst Taco Bells I’ve ever been to have been in the sketchiest places, and some of the best and worst have been in the nicest areas. Case by case thing.

Taco Bell makes glorious return to Sedalia, Mo.: I hate to profile here, but Sedalia Democrat columnist Travis McMullen looks like the type of dude who thinks critically about Taco Bell (and it takes one to know one). So when he expounds upon why the local Taco Bell developed a much more dedicated and vocal following than competing fast food locations in the area, I suggest we listen.

Taco Bell Tuesday

Are all the songs about Tuesdays sad? “Ruby Tuesday,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Tuesday Heartbreak.” No one writes a “Tuesday I’m in Love.”

First and foremost: Our man @Ceetar, who has come out of Internet anonymity and revealed himself to be Michael Donato, sampled the churrs at his local Taco Bell last week. He even snapped some photos for the people:

That’s a bold claim — quite literally — from the self-aware wrapper: “the tastiest experience of your day.” So how is it?

“Soft, chewy and crisp, warm and delicious,” Donato reports. “It was pretty much a perfect churro and the curvy nature of it is much more visually appealing than the typically straight one that looks like a pipe fitting or something.”

Alarming story: One time at Splish Splash out on Long Island, I got a churro and bit into it to find a metal rod inside. It seemed like it was probably the metal rod upon which the churro had been heated in the spinning churro-machine thing, which somehow came off with the churro when they served it to me.

‘Upscale’ Taco Bell planned in Philadelphia: Details appear few and far between. Is this another of the new, glowing Taco Bell prototypes we’ve discussed before, or something greater? Another salvo in the Franchise Wars? The first U.S. installment of the defunct Chinese full-service Taco Bell Grande experiment? Obviously TedQuarters will stay on top of this story as it unfolds.

Book review calls Taco Bell “the largest restaurant franchise in the world:” It’s in the Wall Street Journal, a fairly reputable source, so if you want to go ahead and cite that as fact I won’t stop you. The only problem is I’m pretty sure it’s not true. The article cites Taco Bell’s 5,800 outposts as evidence of its dominance, but as recently as 2011, the Journal reported that both Subway and McDonald’s franchises numbered in the 30,000s. Plus, much of the book review revolves around the utterly fruitless pursuit of cultural authenticity in food. Everything we eat everywhere is the byproduct of some earlier cultural exchange.

The Red Sox’ efforts to defeat the Empire with fried chicken were far less successful

A true dog of the people, the Chihuahua has tirelessly devoted his life to one thing – the pursuit of tacos. This kind of dedication has allowed him to heighten his natural skills of navigation, negotiation and general deviousness. Now he is putting his considerable talents to work fighting the ultimate evil in the universe. Because, he rationalizes, when the universe is free, the tacos are free. In the meantime, he’s confident he’ll get that Jedi mind trick to work eventually.

DefeatTheDarkSide.com.

Catsmeat passed along this link to the promotional website the Yum! Foods restaurants used in a promotion coinciding with the release of Star Wars: Episode 1 back in 1999, via The Onion, via the ol’ Wayback Machine. It’s way too good to sit on until Tuesday. I mean:

Taco Bell Tuesday

This is a big one.

Taco Bell introduces new menu items: The good news for longtime Taco Bell lovers is it appears Taco Bell is moving away from fancy celebrity-chef endorsed fare and gimmicky cross-branded overrated hype drivers back toward its base, gimmicky uni-branded Taco Bell stuff. To start, there are two new dessert items and XXL Steak Nachos.

The new dessert offerings are churros and cookie sandwiches. The former may seem a bit redundant with the longstanding presence of Cinnamon Twists on the menu, and presumably the cinnamon sugar sprinkled atop the churros will be the same stuff used to coat the twists. I’ve never personally felt the need for a Taco Bell dessert beyond what’s already available on the menu, but maybe a softer version of the Cinnamon Twists will be useful for those nursing jaw injuries or something. And the cookie sandwich — misidentified by Advertising Age as containing vanilla ice cream but actually containing “vanilla cream filling” — appears to offer Taco Bell customers the opportunity to try that thing they’ve always kind of wanted to get from that cookie store at the mall but never had the opportunity or wherewithal to purchase.

The XXL Steak Nachos look to be a lot like other Taco Bell nachos, but larger. Even the photo on the Taco Bell website shows the toppings poorly distributed, which is a bit concerning:

Somewhat notably, the XXL Steak Nachos will be the first standard nachos on the menu to feature guacamole, continuing the trend set by XXL and Cantina items to incorporate more guacamole in Taco Bell stuff.

The more intriguing stuff comes later:

Then, in the coming weeks, Taco Bell will also announce some savory snack foods in the form of wraps. Dubbed “loaded grillers,” the savory snacks will essentially be nachos, chicken or a loaded baked potato, all wrapped in a tortilla.

It’s unclear how this mysterious chicken wrapped in a tortilla product will differ from Taco Bell’s numerous chicken burritos, and I’m skeptical that the baked-potato version won’t just be a re-imagining of the various fiesta-potato driven products that I never order. So I’ve got a lot riding on this nachos-in-a-wrap concept, and I feel pretty confident that Taco Bell won’t let me down.

Link via several people, first Catsmeat.

Taco Bell benevolence of the week: Part of tracking Taco Bell news means leafing through a hell of a lot of stories about crimes committed in Taco Bells. So it was refreshing to find this heartwarming story from Merced, Calif. today, about a woman who left her purse in Taco Bell only to have it returned free of charge by the Taco Bell’s heroic manager.

Peterson, who lives in Rocklin, said she and her family stopped at the Taco Bell on their way to visit family. She had just entered Roseville when she realized she left her purse on the back of a chair inside the Martin Luther King Jr. Way restaurant.

What would follow is a 130-mile journey for the yellow purse and a series of events over the next few days that would amaze Peterson and restore her faith in humanity.

Typically, my faith in humanity is restored during my visits to Taco Bell, not afterwards.

Public service announcement: Construction of a Taco Bell location at the corner of Livernois and Walton in Rochester Hills, Mich. has been delayed by bad soils discovered during surveying. The franchisees will spend the winter redesigning the proposed Taco Bell to adjust for the marl and processing the appropriate building permits with the city. Concerned citizens wondering why the Taco Bell’s owners will not instead pursue the larger lot on the same corner that once featured a Big Boy should know that the Big Boy lot was not made available to the Taco Bell franchisees, and that Taco Bell representative Bill Beckett believes the targeted spot is “a wonderful location for a Taco Bell.”

Taco Bell Tuesday

Not much on the Taco Bell newswire this week, but a couple items of note.

Strange doings in Eugene: A vague sign inside a Starbucks in Eugene, Ore. has University of Oregon students excited. Here’s what the sign looks like:

And who could blame them for being amped about that? I mean, a 24-hour Taco Bell lounge! How sophisticated! They’re finally opening Club Chalupa.

The only problem is there’s no real evidence beyond the sign that it’s happening. An area Taco Bell representative said the chain has no plans to expand into the location and the town’s Planning and Development Department says there are no active permits at the location and no open applications.

Is this some sort of copycat stunt modeled after the hoax in Bethel, Alaska? A rogue Starbucks employee making idle threats to undercut the coffee shop’s business from the inside? A forthcoming, bell-themed 24-hour lounge unaffiliated with Taco Bell that will soon be sued for copyright infringement?

Needless to say, I will stay on this story as long as it keeps appearing in my Google News returns. My college’s campus featured a Taco Bell Express for my freshman year, but it later switched to a knock-off fast-food taco shop. I nearly transferred, but it turned out the new place served food suspiciously similar to Taco Bell’s.

Obama is trying to take your tacos!: This one comes via the OC Weekly’s ever-vigilant Taco Bell Crime of the Week series. Police in Dover, Ohio received a call about a man in a Barack Obama mask trying to steal bags of food from customers at the Taco Bell drive thru. This is either really lame political commentary or more incredibly cliched use of Presidential masks while committing crimes. We’ve all seen Point Break, bro, Why not rob Taco Bells dressed as Hellboy or Shrek or Kanye West?

Real-life friend Scott has an awesome Hamburglar getup that he’ll probably show you if you ask. Obviously that’s the right costume for showing up at drive-thrus and attempting to steal food. It might be especially funny to dress up like the Hamburglar and steal food at Taco Bell, because then people’d be all, “WTF?”

Taco hero Angel Pagan eats tacos

Due to the whole hurricane thing, I did not get to enjoy a free Doritos Locos Taco courtesy of Angel Pagan yesterday. I thought about making the trek to my nearest Taco Bell in the wind and rain, but I realized it was on account of like $1.39 or something and that if I injured myself in pursuit of a free Doritos Locos Taco in a hurricane, I’d never live down the LOLs.

Anyway, a Redwood City, Calif. Taco Bell invited Pagan himself to the restaurant for the occasion, and Pagan showed up. Here’s what he had to say:

“I grew up in the projects. If you believe, you can accomplish anything. Look at me.”

And indeed, look at him:

All you have to do is believe in yourself and someday you too can be signing autographs in a Taco Bell while wearing a Doritos Locos Taco shirt.

Also, it’s hard to imagine any athlete in the world pulling off that look better than Pagan does right there. Dude has verve. That might be history’s greatest instagram.

Furthermore, additional photos show Pagan wearing the very same style of Taco Bell hat favored by Mark Sanchez.

Friday Q&A, pt. 1: Mets stuff

You know, Cousin Ray? That’s a good question, and one I hadn’t really considered. And I suppose we’re not counting Todd Hundley and Howard Johnson as outfielders here, for obvious reasons.

I suspect it’s a combination of some bad luck and the rarity of power-hitting outfielders as good as Darryl Strawberry. In the time since the Mets started playing in 1962, the Braves have developed two outfielders who hit more home runs for them than Strawberry did for the Mets: Andruw Jones and Dale Murphy (though some dude named Hank Aaron was already playing for the Braves in 1962 and hit 480 homers for them from that date forward). Pat Burrell finished his Phillies career with 251 home runs, one short of Straw’s total with the Mets and in a better offensive era.

No outfielder — and no one at all — in the history of the Nationals/Expos or the Marlins franchises has hit as many home runs for the club as Strawberry did for the Mets. Andre Dawson and Vlad Guerrero both finished about one strong season shy of the Straw Man, though, and certainly Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper appear to be on promising trajectories.

That’s just in the division, though, and the Mets don’t ever seem to benefit from the services of in-house power-hitting outfielders of the Geoff Jenkins and Bobby Higginson ilk, who come up through their system, mash some dingers for a while then fade into the ether. And in the rare instance they do have one of those guys, it seems they tend to trade him away before he does the bulk of his Major League damage.

Near as I can tell, the best power-hitting outfielders the Mets have developed besides Strawberry have been Jeromy Burnitz, Kevin Mitchell and the criminally underrated Ken Singleton. Those three totaled 38 home runs in their first stints with the Mets (Burnitz added 37 more in his second go-round) and hit 720 of them for other teams.

So I guess I’d blame it on some bad luck, some bad choices, a lot of reliance on free-agency once the free-agency era began, and Dallas Green.

This question came up in many different forms, so I’m using our man Catsmeat’s to stand in for all of them because I know for a fact he’s a dedicated Taco Bell lover. And yes, of course it does.

The Mets’ trade of Pagan for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres looks pretty awful in retrospect. And for all you’ll read about why it had to be done, fact is — as Patrick Flood pointed out on the podcast yesterday — Pagan suffered a career-low batting average on balls in play in 2011. So did Andres Torres, though, and Torres repeated his low mark in 2012. Plus I don’t think anyone could have expected Ramon Ramirez to struggle like he did.

Anyway, since Pagan would pretty demonstrably not have made the difference for the Mets in 2012 and would now be headed for free agency anyway, I’ll call the deal a net positive for humanity because it ultimately earned us all free tacos. I preferred the promotion when it promised regular Crunchy Tacos, the Doritos Locos Taco’s superior ancestor, but I’ll take any free taco I can get. See you guys at Taco Bell next week.

Damned if I know. Mookie apparently admits he wouldn’t have, and I defer to Mookie always. Maybe if Buckner gets the ball and charges toward the bag, Mookie hesitates at the sight of the lumbering first baseman and twists his ankle. Maybe the Mets win in some equally crazy way in the 12th or the 17th and we have some other great story to tell. Maybe Mookie beats Buckner to the bag and Ray Knight goes too far rounding third and gets thrown out in a rundown. Maybe the top of the 11th was when Suspect Zero planned the FlashForward. What happened, happened, and what happened was awesome. I only wish I was old enough to be conscious of how awesome it was.

Taco Bell Tuesday

Featuring baseball!

Justin Verlander confirms his Taco Bell order: Buried in an otherwise long and very interesting feature about Justin Verlander’s career and love life comes confirmation of his standard pre-start meal. The best pitcher in baseball prepares for his outings with three Crunchy Tacos Supreme, a Cheesy Gordita Crunch and a Mexican Pizza. Verlander has Tweeted the same:

Like your boy, me, he always requests no tomatoes on all his Taco Bell items. Unlike your boy, me, Justin Verlander probably never actually ends up with tomatoes on his Taco Bell items, because who would dare screw up Justin Verlander’s pre-start Taco Bell order?

For all Verlander’s successes on the mound, his Game 1 start in San Francisco may afford him the opportunity to do something he has never done before: Get a hit. In 35 career plate appearances in Interleague and postseason play, Verlander is 0-for-26 with no walks, 15 strikeouts and nine sacrifices. I went through Verlander’s game logs and determined that — unless he has at some point been inserted as a pinch-runner — he has actually been on base twice in his career: Once during the 2006 World Series and once earlier this season, both on fielder’s choices. I mention because…

“Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotion revived for 2012: Seriously, how sweet would it be if Justin Verlander, amazing pitcher and lover of Taco Bell, got his first career hit then immediately stole the first base of the 2012 World Series to secure free Doritos Locos Tacos for everyone in America? How can you possibly be reading this blog and not rooting for that to happen? It was cool enough when Tacoby Bellsbury did it back in ’07. Verlander doing it would elevate the promotion to a whole new realm of awesomeness. The person in Taco Bell’s marketing department that reads this blog and won’t acknowledge it will now have to scroll through the rest of this post with his or her fingers crossed. (Also, no hard feelings, bro or ma’am! Email me! We can make this happen. Crunchy red strips!)

Saturday Night Live produces fake Taco Bell commercial: This would probably be funnier if I were familiar with the original Brad Pitt ad in question before I saw the parody version. But the Dr. Zizmor one is pretty good regardless. Is Saturday Night Live funny again?

Kate Upton likes guys who enjoy Taco Bell

The website Celebuzz spoke to two of Kate Upton’s relatives to confirm that the ubiquitous model is dating utterly awesome pitcher Justin Verlander.

If you follow Mark Sanchez’s dating life as closely as some of us do, you may recall that the Jets’ handsomest young quarterback was also once romantically linked to Ms. Upton.

So what does Kate Upton look for in a man? Well, I can only think of one common bond between Mark Sanchez and Justin Verlander: They both love Taco Bell.

Somewhere, Oliver Miller eagerly applies cologne.