Taco Bell is an iconic fast food chain where you can score cheap, greasy Tex-Mex food.
The origins of Taco Bell come from a hot dog loving, burger-flipping man in California named Glen Bell. Bell opened up Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs in 1948 in a Latino neighborhood in San Bernardino (click HERE for the source). His taco-serving competitor across the way always seemed to have a long line. A profit opportunity! Bell frequently grabbed a taco to figure out the different components before the owners taught him the ropes. Bell eventually opened up Taco-Tia, which led to the first Taco Bell in 1962. The business blew up and became a franchise within 4 years. Now there are 7,000 locations and over 350 franchises world wide.
While part of the growth is due to popular demand for the product, the real success of Taco Bell lies in smart branding decisions and mastering the art of the pivot. The company has partnered with the ESPN X games, KFC, Mountain Dew, Frito Lays, and the NBA, just to name a few, and has offered clever promotions such as promising free tacos if the Soviet space station, Mir, hit a specific target. Taco Bell successfully tapped into the growing fast food breakfast market with a waffle taco and breakfast burrito, and it is constantly adding new exciting specials to the menu. (click HERE for the source.)
The result? 40 million customers a week and a massive position in the Mexican fast-food market.
While Taco Bell has been thriving in the USA since 1962, it’s journey in Australia has been a bit more tumultuous. It first attempted to launch in Sydney in 1981. But an already established Mexican joint called Taco Bell’s Casa sued over the name. Taco Bell attempted to launch again in 1997, but only lasted 8 years until failing. Taco Bell is no quitter, and it attempted yet another launch in 2017 with 7 stores in Queensland that are still open and all owned by Collins Foods. Now, there are 19 open locations across 3 states with plans of more to come. (Click HERE for the source)
While Taco Bell has had a hard time cracking into the Australian market, the hungry patrons love it. How does the product stack up the USA? I got help of my dad to find out in a cross-continental Taco Bell showdown!
Robina, Queensland vs Staunton, Virginia
Crunchy beef tacos and a chicken quesadilla.
The Findings: Australia
We rolled on up to the Taco Bell in Robina on our way from the Spring Brook Mountains to the East Coast of Queensland. The fast food joint was impressively big, with both indoor seating as well as an open aired dining section. We checked in at the door for COVID-19 contact tracing, and were greeted at the counter with a smile.
Ordering was smooth. The food came out in less than 5 minutes. We even got to take a survey for a free taco.
The Tacos: AUD$2 (USD $1.57)
The crunchy beef tacos tasted better than I had remembered them from a year ago in the US, but still not good. The beef was quite saucy with standard Mexican seasoning and zero spice. The lettuce and cheese sat right on top. Was it delicious? Not really. Was it edible? I guess.
I wouldn’t be seeking out the beef tacos from Taco Bell anytime soon. But for $2 a pop, you get what you pay for.
The Quesadilla: AUD$5.95 (USD$4.68)
The quesadilla was loaded with cheese, chicken strips, and some sort of spicy mystery sauce that gave each bite a zing. Chicken and cheese is a winning combo, but what made this quesadilla quite tasty was the fact that the tortilla was perfectly toasted, giving it shape and an ever so slight crunch to hold in the oozing cheese. The best part was that there was never a bite without chicken a cheese!
The Findings: USA
From Lew Askegaard.
How tired is the rest of the world at hearing that from Americans? But with COVID cases and deaths, there’s no debate. We’re way beyond double anyone else in both categories. I don’t know a single person who has died of it. But my age group has chalked up 80% of the deaths.
We live in COVID Country 24-7-365. Even something as simple as driving to Taco Bell is like walking the streets of inner city Baltimore at 3 am.
Armored in a KN-95 mask with stretchy gloves on, I walked into Taco Bell. It was empty because fast food restaurants allow no in-store dining. A teenage cashier who looked like she lived on fast food-lots and lots of it-was masked and behind thick shields of plastic. No one uses cash anymore, because there is a change shortage in the US and bills might be crawling with COVID virions. I inserted my card in a machine on the counter, waited a nervous 3 minutes, walked out bag in hand, pausing at a hand sanitizer at the door for a squirt.
Locked safely in the car, I hosed myself down with more 70% alcohol on my hands. Don’t leave home without it. Walk in the door and head for the sink to wash.
A simple fast food pickup is a dance with the reaper. What we do for our kids!
In COVID Country, all you expect from fast food is hot. Around 75 degrees C. Is necessary to break up the little RNA strings with their nasty little ten genes.
Fast food is presumably never touched by human hands. Quesadillas come pre-bagged and flash frozen, then nuked back to edibility. The taco filling ditto. It’s brought to a viscous state in the store, then scooped into the shell. All workers wear thin disposable plastic gloves—presumably.
Ok, so how much does one trust the minimum wage food prep kid back in the kitchen? None at all. They are the age group that gets the bug without symptoms, so they are presumably given the 15 minute COVID test twice a week. You’re possibly contagious as little as 2 days after exposure, so do the math: and despair!
But the puny little RNA strands can’t withstand the acidic environment of mouth and stomach. So if you can stuff it into your maw without snorting it through nostrils, you should be ok. That’s what my wife and I tell ourselves. And the research says that you aren’t likely to get it from food. You get it from extended debates at the bar and swapping body fluids at frat parties. What can possibly go wrong?
The Taco: USD$1.39 pre-tax (AUD$1.77)
Taco was crisp on one side, wilted iron the other. Unwilted side was crunchy, no discernible taste. Filling tasted like salt with a dull cheese taste. Looked like about two tablespoons of beefy mixture.
The Quesadilla: USD $4.29 pre-tax (AUD$5.58)
Quesadilla was very limp and soft. Chewy, a little gummy. Discernible chunks of chicken, but no taste but salt. After taste was vague heat on back of throat. Not much chicken. Picture shows half taco with one tablespoon of meat, one fourth of the quesadilla opened to show only one forlorn piece of fowl.
Quesadilla packed 510 calories, 48% from fat. Taco added 170 more, 49% from fat. The two together furnished about 70% of my daily fat allowance. Same with sodium. Quesadilla 1250 mg, taco, 310 m
Mom’s reaction was, “That stuff is FOUL” with appropriate facial expression. “Gummy and tasteless. And the CHEESE! Tasteless little shards of some cheese product. Neither spicy or tasty.
We’ve had real Mexican food in Laguna and Mexico, and even Mom swooned over it. This ain’t Mexican!
Hey, are these taste tests really a plot to send us to our graves early so you can reap the vast family horde?
Now I’ll make my salad for lunch.
Over All Ranking: (1-5, 5 being the best)
The Conclusion for the Taco Bell Cross Continental Showdown:
Neither of us were thrilled with our Taco Bell experiences. However, my dad’s back in the USA was particularly terrible. At least my taco was edible and my quesadilla had visible chunks of real chicken with a bit of flavor!
And the winner is….
If you liked this showdown, check out our McDonald’s vs Macca’s one!:
My dad and I had the ultimate cross continental breakfast showdown: The Mighty McMuffin (Australia) vs Egg McMuffin (USA). Find out which reigned supreme!
For something a touch sweeter, here’s one for cookies!: