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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Taco Bell, often a late-night indulgence with its inexpensive fare, is going more upscale. The chain said Wednesday it plans an early July rollout of a menu addition created by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia for its nearly 5,600 U.S. restaurants. New items feature such ingredients as black beans, cilantro rice, citrus- and herb-marinated chicken and cilantro dressing.
The introduction of items that Taco Bell executive Brian Niccol described as "gourmet Mexican," is a venture onto the turf of casual-dining chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Qdoba Mexican Grill known for higher-quality ingredients. It's a departure from such standards as tacos, burritos and chalupas that Taco Bell's core young-adult customers crave and that will remain mainstays on menu boards.
The additions going nationwide July 5 take a bigger bite out of the wallet, but the newcomers are also bigger than the chain's regular burritos. 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. The goal is to give regular customers more choices and to lure new business.
Garcia, a featured guest on NBC's "Today Show" and "The Biggest Loser," started working with Taco Bell in the fall of 2010. "They were looking to ... expand their food to offer new flavors with great taste," she said. "I saw this as an opportunity to help create diversity to the Taco Bell experience." The company will put more than $20 million of TV and digital marketing into the first month or so of the rollout, Niccol said.