Is Taco Bell the Hyundai of American Fast Food?

The past decade has seen the explosion of what's called fast-casual Mexican restaurants: classier than Taco Bell, less formal than El Torito. We're talking Chipotle, Qdoba (which I believe has only one outpost in Southern California), Wahoo's, Baja Fresh and the like.

You'd think this new competition would motivate Taco Bell to move beyond its menu of lowest-denominator takes on Mexican-American standards, but no! In a recent interview with QSR Magazine, the Bell's Aussie (!) CEO, Greg Creed, compares his company to Hyundai and is proud of it.

"But I'm not going to pretend that we're going to turn the brand into BMW--I don't want to turn the brand into BMW," he told QSR. "Hyundai sells a whole lot more cars than BMW does."

Okay, so that was a great quote. And the entirety of the article paints a positive picture of Creed, and not of the hagiography kind; he comes off, by his own quotes and actions, as charming, fiercely protective of the Bell, but also fully understanding that his company didn't turn into one of the largest restaurant chains in the United States by trying to sell gourmet food (which makes their recent foray into "street" tacos all the more perplexing).

But Hyundai? Hyundai was once mediocre and now makes somewhat-great cars. There's been no real evolution in Taco Bell, so I'd say the Bell is more of the Volvo of fast-food: not really appealing visually--actually quite ugly--but as consistent as the moon going round and round.

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