In Focus
FRANCHISING | Kevin Santos, Europe

EXCLUSIVE: Taco Bell begins big European push, looks to format and delivery to give them the edge

Brand executives claim it will be a “huge opportunity” to drive consumer growth in the region.

Looking to capitalise on the success of other Yum! brands in Europe, Taco Bell is looking to continue their aggressive expansion plans for the region by utilising food delivery for their tech-savvy customer base.

“I think it’s a global trend in Europe. That is a major focus and I think we can do it. We can offer something that nobody else is doing – the made to order ability that we have and how we combine unique experiences and innovative products,” Taco Bell’s new general manager for Europe Jorge Torres said in an exclusive interview with QSR Media.

Aside from providing easier access to food, Taco Bell says the youthful, social brand also made changes to their operating model – in terms of store formats and the customer experience.

“Taco Bell is an experience. It is a social experience and something that you want to share with your friends. Especially in markets that don’t know much about Mexican food, you want to show it off. Here, when you see our food, it’s Instagram-able,” Torres added.

“In the U.S., we’re predominantly a drive-thru model and in the U.K., we’re more of an in-line. Part of what made us successful this time around is that if you’re not familiar with Taco Bell or the Mexican category, you’re going to have a lot of questions about the food and what it looks like. Unlike in the US, we learned that people want to see what they’re ordering, and our European store format allows them to do that,” Taco bell international president Liz Williams added.

Finding the right franchising partners
Taco Bell Europe, currently with 85 sites, is eyeing seven markets in the continent, including Cyprus, the UK, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Romania and Russia. The brand is targeting 30 new restaurants in Europe this year including 20 in the UK, three in Finland, three in the Netherlands, three in Romania and one in Cyprus.
Torres says interest for franchise partners is surging but emphasizes that they are taking their time in finding the right partnerships to execute their plans properly.

“I always get a lot of calls from people who are interested in franchising, but it has to be manageable. We want to strengthen where we already have a footprint while expanding to new European markets. There are big markets out there that are very attractive, but we’re evaluating right now where we’re going with the supply chain setup. For growth, we’ve got to make sure the fundamentals are there. We are delivering the convenience and value, and the cult of Taco Bell. But we need to make sure we know how to commercialise regions appropriately, and ensure our supply chain can deliver on our plans”.

The brand is also looking to integrate their fan base in their marketing strategy. “The fan base is one of the biggest assets that we have. We’ll definitely be looking to activate that fan base and see how we can make them ambassadors.”

Taco Bell says the “sky is the limit” for expanding in Europe but admits location and rent cost are also playing a factor. “It’s a challenging time for everyone. We want to make sure the economics are working out for all. It’s a general take in the industry. We may feel slower, but it’s just because we're being careful. We want to make sure that this is a long-term success rather not just a one shot growth,” Torres said.

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