Taco Bell to debut Cantina Bell menu in July

by Eric Schroeder
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IRVINE, CALIF. — Taco Bell, a division of Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brands Inc., will introduce a Cantina Bell menu nationwide on July 5. The expanded menu will include tacos, burritos and bowls featuring black beans, cilantro, rice and grilled corn salsa at a suggested price of less than $5.

Celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, who was featured on NBC “America’s Next Great Restaurant” and will appear on the new season of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” worked with Taco Bell beginning in October 2010 to create the menu. All the menu items were inspired by Ms. Garcia, Taco Bell said.

The Cantina Burrito Bowl and Cantina Burrito, offered with chicken or steak, will sell for nearly $5 apiece. A vegetarian option will be offered, also for nearly $5.

Side dishes include chips and pico de gallo or corn salsa, chips and guacamole, or black beans and rice. Each will sell for $1.49, Taco Bell said.

Speculation earlier this year involved whether Taco Bell was positioning its menu to better compete with such restaurants as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Qdoba Mexican Grill, which focus on fresh ingredients. In a January interview with Reuters, however, Greg Creed, chief executive officer of Taco Bell, called that “crazy talk.”

“I’m not trying to reposition Taco Bell to be Chipotle,” Mr. Creed said. “To be a more relevant Taco Bell, we can sell products that are every bit as good but cost a whole lot less. This is one of those watershed moments where we’re going to redefine what the brand stands for.”

In March, Taco Bell introduced Doritos Locos Tacos, with shells made out of Nacho Cheese Doritos, and in January the chain introduced breakfast in 800 restaurants in the western United States.

The 11-item breakfast line, dubbed First Meal, features traditional “back to basics” morning foods with scrambled eggs, sausage patties, bacon, tortillas and hash browns. The chain also now offers Seattle’s Best coffee.

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