In Focus
MARKETING | Kevin Santos, UK
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EXCLUSIVE: The value of a great social experience in fast food, according to Taco Bell

Taco Bell’s general manager for Europe Jorge Torres also shares his perspective on getting the right franchisees.

Currently at seven markets in Europe, Taco Bell is looking to ramp up its aggressive global expansion plan. This year, the company is targeting 30 new restaurants on the continent: 20 in the UK, three in Finland, three in the Netherlands, three in Romania and one in Cyprus. 

Spearheading this is Jorge Torres, Taco Bell’s new General Manager for Europe. Torres comes to the cult brand from Nestlé Waters Company, where he led global business strategy. Prior to this, he was International Brand Director for the Nestlé Pure Life Global Business Unit, where he led a team that was responsible for over $2 billion in net sales and a presence in more than 40 markets.

QSR Media sat down with Torres, who shared his excitement for Taco Bell’s ambitions and the countries they are looking to expand to next.

QSR Media: Other than the store formats, what changes has Taco Bell made in its operating model to expand internationally?
Open plating. Taco Bell is an experience. It is a social experience and something that you want to share to your friends. Especially in markets that don’t know much about Mexican food, you want to show it off. Here, when you see your food, it’s Instagram-able.

QSR Media: Is it important for the millennial market have ‘Instagram-able’ food?
Not only are we a social brand, but with many places outside the US, people want to come in to a restaurant, sit down, and enjoy the experience. To do that, it just makes more sense to put our food in an open format rather than just in a bag.

QSR Media: What makes the right partner for franchising?
Culture is one of the biggest advantages of Taco Bell and I’m seeing it right now, we have 30 franchisees here. We’re always looking to find the kind of partners that share our culture and our values of being young, innovative and fun.

QSR Media: Specifically in the UK, how are your expansion plans coming along?
It’s a challenging time for everyone. I think it’s finding the right location and the right rents. We want to make sure the economics work for everyone. 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 than a one shot go at growth.

QSR Media: Where were you before Taco Bell and what made you excited for this opportunity?
I was most recently working at Nestle. The majority of my career has been in marketing focusing on corporate strategy and innovation. I’m very excited about the speed and dynamism of this industry. What made me come to Taco Bell? I have a long list. I would say the culture. I was looking for the right cultural fit. Secondly, the brand. I’ve never been so proud of a brand as I am of Taco Bell.

QSR Media: What are your priorities?
Growth, growth, growth. But caveated by making sure the fundamentals are there. The convenience and value are there, that innovation happens, that we market the brand correctly and most importantly that we do it with the right partners.

QSR Media: Where in Europe do you see the opportunities?
I see opportunity everywhere. We’re getting calls from several different countries. There are big countries that are very attractive because of their scale. Russia is one. We’re looking how we can enter Russia, and answering questions about the manageability and scalability of the supply chain, as well as who the right partners are. As a comparison, our KFC business in Russia is phenomenal.

QSR Media: What about France?
We’re starting to see bad imitations of Taco Bell growing in France. It’s a challenging market and it’s very competitive. Labour is complex as well as the law and the salary but its definitely on our radar.

QSR Media: How big do you see Taco Bell being in Europe in the next 5 years?
The sky is the limit. When you see the potential of KFC, we'd like to be one of the top players in the market.

QSR Media: What are the challenges in European markets?
For me, it’s competition. It’s how you keep being unique in this space. My job is to look at my competitors and play my own game. But that differentiation might not come as fast as other brands. We want to keep the integrity of our brand. Playing our own game is an exciting challenge.

(Photo courtesy: Taco Bell UK)

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