They probably meant well. Taco Bell has joined the likes of McDonald's and Wendy's by adding a value menu to its regular selection of Tex-Mex offerings, but there's something off about it. Taco Bell launched its Dollar Cravings Menu nationally on Monday, but observers quickly realized that the $1 price tag is actually more expensive than many of the other items the chain used to offer. Also, some of the dollar-menu items aren't even new — they were already on the regular menu, and at a cheaper price. So where's the value in that?
Taco Bell has been testing its Dollar Cravings Menu since last year, as a way to phase out its Why Pay More menu. From its description and the prices offered, the Why Pay More menu was the real value menu. When it launched in 2008, the menu featured food items at three price points: 79 cents, 89 cents, and 99 cents. The Why Pay More menu even allowed customers to customize a combination of items with the $2 Meal Deals, which included a medium soft drink and a bag of Doritos. Not too shabby. So, really, why pay more?
Taco Bell executives weren't satisfied with the tiered pricing of their previous value menu. Last May, they announced the new Dollar Cravings Menu, telling the Associated Press that they had found the right mix of food items for the fixed $1 price.
The chain has been testing the waters in higher-end ventures as well, recently opening its first upscale eatery, U.S. Taco Co., in Huntington Beach, California. While it remains to be seen how successful fancy Taco Bell tacos will do, the Dollar Cravings Menu, which currently offers 11 items, is already getting flak. Take a look at the offerings and see which ones are indeed value items, and which ones actually went up in price. . . .
The Spicy Potato Soft Taco
In 2009, there was the Crispy Potato Soft Taco, featured on the Why Pay More menu for 79 cents. Today, the Dollar Cravings Menu is offering a slightly different version, the Spicy Potato Soft Taco, for $1. There'd better be magic in that spicy flavoring, Taco Bell, because that is a huge price jump.
Beefy Fritos Burrito
Taco Bell notorious for incorporating America's most indulgent but terrible-for-you snacks into its indulgent but terrible-for-you Tex-Mex items. Besides taco shells made out of Doritos, there is this beef burrito with Fritos corn chips. Judging by the prices of its plain bean burrito ($1.09) and its black bean burrito ($1.79), the Beefy Fritos Burrito looks like a good deal.
According to Time, the Cinnamon Twists were already featured on Taco Bell's menu, for 99 cents, so the value-menu version is actually more expensive by one cent. What do you think we are, Taco Bell? Made of money? And I'm no Tex-Mex fast-food chain expert, but in what universe are braided cinnamon sticks equal to a burrito stuffed with beef and Fritos?
First of all, what is this? Like a Fruit Roll-Up with cheese? Hey, it might be James Bear Award-worthy for all I know — I've never had one — but all I'm saying is that the name reminds me of fruit leather. Anyway, this was also previously offered at 99 cents. So boycott this one as well.
Triple Layer Nachos
Now this is what I call a value item. If you go by the price of Taco Bell's regular, old cheesy nachos (99 cents), one more cent is a small price to pay for two additional toppings: beans and the ever-mysterious tangy red sauce.Images: Steven Depolo/Flickr; Taco Bell