LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Yo quiero Taco Bell breakfast burrito!
The Mexican-style fast-food chain that caters to the late-night snacking crowd with tacos and gorditas introduced a breakfast menu Thursday at almost 800 restaurants in 14 states.
Some Oregon Taco Bell restaurants offer the breakfast menu, but those in Bend, Redmond and La Pine do not at this time. Calls to the Madras store went unanswered.
If the launch goes well, Taco Bell plans to begin selling its breakfast burritos and hash browns in its 5,600 locations nationwide by 2014.
Taco Bell is entering the mad scramble by fast-food heavyweights to compete for the morning on-the-go crowd. Breakfast has become the most important meal of the day for restaurants, accounting for virtually all of the industry’s growth in the past five years.
“Right now we’re not getting our fair share of that,” said Brian Niccol, Taco Bell’s chief marketing and innovation officer. “We want to get our fair share and then some.”
Breakfast’s new popularity has a lot to do with the economy. Unemployed people don’t dine out much. Lunch sales, in particular, fall because they’re not grabbing a bite to eat during the workday. And at a time when people are cutting back on discretionary spending, breakfast is a cheaper alternative when eating out than dinner.
Fast-food restaurants have taken notice. Subway started offering breakfast in 2010. Wendy’s is starting to get into the breakfast game, too. And Burger King, Starbucks and McDonald’s in recent years have been expanding their offerings of everything from breakfast sandwiches to oatmeal and smoothies.
Taco Bell is teaming with such popular brands as Johnsonville, Cinnabon, Tropicana and Seattle’s Best for its breakfast menu, which has a price range of 99 cents to $2.79.
Customers can buy the breakfast items in Taco Bell locations in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. A limited number of stores in Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma will also serve breakfast.
Some Taco Bell restaurants already are open around the clock to accommodate the new breakfast offerings. Others will open at least one hour earlier, which means an 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. opening for many. The stores will stop serving breakfast at 11 a.m.
That’s a later start time than most other fast-food chains, but Taco Bell’s 18- to 20-year-old core customers don’t generally wake at the crack of dawn.