The Chain Gang

No Más: What It’s (Probably) Like Inside Taco Bell HQ Right Now

Is there trouble in Taco town?
Is there trouble in Taco town? Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Time was, Taco Bell introduced a new product and the world went crazy. Then Taco Bell would go on to sell hundreds of millions of units. But this week, some other chains have stolen the Bell’s social-media thunder (such as Domino’s and its questionable new chicken hunk “pizza” and the return of the KFC Double Down). How could this happen? And what’s Taco Bell going to do about it? Here now is a look at what is most likely happening inside the chain’s Irvine, California, headquarters right this second.

Taco Bell President Brian Niccol bursts into the company’s test kitchen, flanked by the company’s army of social media engineers, none of whom is more than 19 years old. Taco Bell’s R&D; team — tasked with creating the chain’s new products — wipes Doritos dust off their hands and quickly scurries over toward Niccol.

Niccol: We’ve got a serious problem. It’s about the new Doritos Locos taco.

R&D; Member 1: Our Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos tacos?

Social Engineer 1: Exactly. We’ve run the numbers and they’re underperforming. And that thing where the Fritos chips are the dip? That hasn’t gone over so well, either. In fact, our figures show that the biggest fast-food social media event of the entire week was from … Domino’s.

R&D; Member 1: That seems impossible. All of our focus-group research shows consumers would literally rather eat garbage than Domino’s pizza.

Social Engineer 2: That’s the thing. Their new product isn’t pizza.

Niccol: They put pizza toppings on fried chicken. It’s simple. It’s elegant. It’s genius! And it’s an idea we should have had first.

R&D; Member 2: But we don’t sell fried chicken… or pizza.

Niccol: We didn’t sell waffles, either, but that didn’t stop us from coming up with waffle tacos.

R&D; Member 1: We could have called it the Fiesta Pizza …

R&D; Member 3: The Fiest-za?

R&D; Member 1: Piesta!

Social Engineer 2: That’s a pretty good hashtag.

Social Engineer 1: [Looking at his phone.] Uh-oh.

Social Engineer 2: [Also looking at her phone.] Oh no. Oh dear Lord, no.

Niccol: What? What is it?

Social Engineer 1: It’s KFC, sir … They’re … They’re…

Niccol: Spit it out!

Social Engineer 1: They’re bringing back the Double Down.

Three members of the R&D; team immediately jump out the nearest window, screaming Noo! Nooooo! as they plummet to their deaths.

Social Engineer 1: [Flipping through every app on his phone.] The Double Down news is everywhere. This is going to be huge. I bet Good Morning America is already prepping a segment.

Niccol: I need ideas, people, and I need them now.

R&D; Member 1: What if we call the Cronut guy and see if he’ll let us make tacos out of those?

R&D; Member 2: A Doritos breakfast sandwich?

R&D; Member 3: Doritos Cronuts!

The phrase “Double Down” skyrockets to the top of Twitter trends.

Social Engineer 1: This can’t be happening!

R&D; Member 4: I have an idea! But it’s a little … out there. What if we start using high-quality ingredients? Fresh tortillas with real meat inside? What if we trump all these other fast-food mash-ups by selling … actual food?

The room falls completely silent.

Niccol: What did you just say?

R&D; Member 4: I said we could sell … actual food.

Social Engineer 1: That would never work as a hashtag.

Niccol: Actual food? What would happen to this industry if we let ideas like that poison our business? You’re fired. The rest of you, figure out how to sell Doritos for breakfast.

No Más: What It’s (Probably) Like Inside Taco Bell HQ Right Now