NEW YORK » The newest weapon in the breakfast wars is a biscuit shaped like a taco.
Taco Bell is launching a "biscuit taco" this week and ditching its "waffle taco," which got widespread attention last year when it was included in the rollout of the chain’s breakfast menu.
The swap comes as the chain tries to build on its year-old breakfast business by once again going after the dominant player in the mornings: McDonald’s.
In a new ad campaign, Taco Bell plans to paint Egg McMuffins as boring, routine food for the brainwashed. In New York and Los Angeles, it is putting up propaganda-like posters for a place called "Routine Republic," with one featuring a demonic clown holding what looks like an Egg McMuffin with the words "Routine Rules."
National TV ads will feature testimonials from real-life "defectors" saying things like "I admit I used to be a McDonald’s fan."
It’s a continuation of an ad campaign last year that featured real-life people named Ronald McDonald professing their love for Taco Bell offerings. At one point, McDonald’s responded by tweeting a photo of Ronald McDonald kneeling down to pet a frail Chihuahua, which was once the mascot for Taco Bell.
Some referred to the back-and-forth as "the breakfast wars."
Whether the biscuit taco has more staying power than the waffle taco remains to be seen. Despite the attention the waffle taco initially generated because of its novelty in the fast-food space, there were early signs it might not last. Not long after it was rolled out, Taco Bell Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt noted that "some of the things on our menu might run out of gas." The chain has also repeatedly said the star of its breakfast menu is the A.M. Crunchwrap, which is a grilled tortilla stuffed with eggs and a hash brown along with sausage, bacon or steak.
As for its latest offering, a Taco Bell representative said it’s "more than just a biscuit, it’s a warm, fluffy, buttery biscuit, folded in the shape of a taco" and it’s here to stay. Starting Thursday, people can get it filled with options like eggs, sausage, cheese or deep-fried chicken and jalapeno honey sauce. It has between 370 and 470 calories, depending on the fillings.
Already, the launch of a national breakfast menu has helped drive up sales at Taco Bell, which has been trying to redefine itself as a hip brand with its "Live Mas" slogan. In the latest quarter, the chain’s sales rose 7 percent at established locations, driven by breakfast, according to parent company Yum Brands Inc.
Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol said breakfast has been holding steady at about 6 percent of sales. That’s compared with between 20 and 25 percent for McDonald’s, which has been playing up its own offerings by noting it cracks fresh eggs to make Egg McMuffins.
It’s not clear what impact Taco Bell’s breakfast is having on McDonald’s Corp., which has been struggling to hold onto customers more broadly amid intensifying competition. But others have been pushing into the breakfast category more aggressively as well, including Starbucks, which revamped its sandwiches last year.