Taco Bell announces Asian expansion boost

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Inside Franchise Business: Taco Bell has big expansion plansU.S. restaurant chain Taco Bell has an ambitious plan to boost its presence across Asia and has committed to double the number of overseas stores in its portfolio.

Such expansion would see Taco Bell’s international operations exceed 500 restaurants over the next few years, to complement parent company Yum! Brands’ 7000 U.S. stores.

Taco Bell’s previous efforts to expand throughout Asia were met with strong consumer apprehension. The brand’s Japanese operation closed in the 1980s, however returned to the region in 2015.

Taco Bell International president, Liz Williams said the previous failings, typified by the Japanese closure and its withdrawal from Singapore in 2009, had better prepared the brand for Asian market expansion this time around.  

“Consumers weren’t ready in terms of awareness and the brand wasn’t positioned right at the time,” Williams said.

A focus on the younger generation is also expected to increase the brand’s presence in the area, with Taco Bell citing a “heightened awareness” of Mexican food driving the expansion efforts.

Taco Bell has also expanded its offering to better suit the local market, modifying its signature sauce to coincide with the opening of a new outlet in Thailand.

Williams suggested the original recipe simply wasn’t hot enough for the Thai palette, with certain vinegar flavours also dialled down to better resonate with locals.

The Thailand store marks the first Taco Bell for the region, and the first of 40 new outlets to be opened by franchise partner Thoresen Thai Agencies.

The Asian expansion announcement follows a consistent pattern of international growth for the brand over the last few months, with Inside Franchise Business reporting in December that Australian franchise partner Restaurant Brands had identified a target of 60 new Taco Bells for New South Wales and the ACT.

Similar to the Asian market, Australian consumers were initially sceptical of the U.S. chain, with the most recent brand success rising from the ashes of two previous failed attempts to break the domestic market.

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Additional reporting: Michael Arnold

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