Taco Bell is tentatively planning to nationally launch a taco that swaps a tortilla for fried chicken.
The “Naked Chicken Chalupa” hasn’t yet been approved for national launch, but tests have been encouraging so far, reports BuzzFeed News.
Taco Bell began testing the fried chicken shell in Bakersfield, California as the “Naked Crispy Chicken Taco” last September, expanding the test to locations in Kansas City in April.
The Naked Chicken Chalupa is stuffed with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and avocado ranch sauce — a combination that is resulting in some surprising customer reactions.
“We were getting feedback like, ‘It’s so healthy. It’s so fresh,” Kat Garcia, Taco Bell’s senior manager of marketing, told BuzzFeed News. “That really surprised us because it’s fried chicken.”
While a taco with a fried chicken shell is a new phenomenon, the product is reminiscent of a dish from another Yum Brands chain: KFC’s Double Down, which launched in 2010.
The sandwich, which stuck cheese and bacon between two fried chicken fillets, went viral after it was announced on April Fool’s Day. While the sandwich gained notoriety, however, it also may have hurt long-term customer perception of KFC.
“People look at the Double Down and what do they think? Frankenfood, right?” KFC CMO Kevin Hochman told Business Insider. “The sad thing is that somebody in the back of the house was hand breading fillets and making the Double Down.”
Today, KFC is trying to convince customers its food is high-quality and reliable — a perception that the Double Down may have damaged.
“You can’t just pivot from Double Downs to ‘We make fried chicken in the back of the house’ overnight,” says Hochman.
With plans to launch the Naked Chicken Chalupa, could Taco Bell be making the same mistake? The Mexican chain may not prioritise health or authenticity in its marketing, but the brand has made some major efforts to appeal to health conscious customers.
While the Naked Chicken Chalupa may seem like a good idea in the short term, as curious customers boost sales, Taco Bell needs to be careful not to follow the Double Down down a dangerous path.
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