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    Taco Bell Lays Out Aggressive 2012 Strategy

    Highlights include new and upgraded menu items, plus a breakfast platform, says CEO Greg Creed.

    NEW YORK -- Taco Bell plans to rebound from its poor performance this year by focusing on upgraded menu items, a breakfast platform and its new Doritos Locos Taco in 2012, according to Nation's Restaurant News. CEO Greg Creed outlined the fast-food chain's strategy during Yum! Brands Inc.'s recent investor conference.

    During the conference, Creed said the lawsuit questioning Taco Bell's use of seasoned beef created negative publicity, but that the company's lack of innovation prevented it from winning back customers.

    That won't be the case for 2012, as Taco Bell's new "breakthrough" item is the Doritos Loco Taco. The taco, developed in partnership with Frito-Lay, features a hard Nacho Cheese Doritos-based shell.

    "There are 34 different bun types in the quick-service category and only one kind of taco shell," said Creed. "With the Doritos Locos Taco shell, the three test markets were driving incredible sales and a lot of incremental traffic. It also was a massive operations win, improving the speed of our transactions by 12 seconds."

    Also in the works is a Chef's Signature lineup of upgraded menu items and reformulated ingredients, such as refried beans and seasonings. To develop the lineup, Taco Bell consulted chef Lorena Garcia, according to the report.

    Creed also reported that Taco Bell's breakfast platform, First Meal, will be added to 800 locations in the Western United States early next year. About half are company-owned; the others are early-adopter franchisees. Last week, meetings were held with Taco Bell's major franchisee groups, the Franchise Management Advisory Council and the Big 12 coalition. "Their point of view on breakfast was very positive, and there were rave reviews around the classic quality improvements and Chef's Signature line," Creed said.

    Creed also confirmed that Taco Bell will refranchise approximately 200 locations during the next two years.

    Yum! Brands President and CEO David Novak expressed support for Taco Bell's aggressive strategy during the conference, stating that he'd be "really upset" if Taco Bell doesn't have a great 2012. "Taco Bell should do very well, and not just because of the weak overlap, but because we have some great innovation in the pipeline," said Novak.

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