As Ben Franklin once said, nothing is certain but death and taxes. Now Taco Bell wants to add something a little more appealing to that grim list. The chain this week reassured upset customers that its beloved Mexican pizza would return to its menu on a permanent basis on Sept. 15 after disappearing earlier this year.
“Taco Bell worked diligently to resolve depleted ingredients and supply chain challenges that originally caused longer gaps in the product’s availability,” the chain explained on its website.
One couldn’t blame Mexican pizza acolytes for having some trust issues on the matter, though. Taco Bell first dropped the long-standing item in 2020, amid a pandemic-era streamlining of its offerings. Then in May, with great marketing-department-stoked fanfare (there was a musical involving Doja Cat and Dolly Parton?), it brought back the cheesy tortillas stacked with refried beans and ground beef. Fans seemed genuinely pumped up about the reboot — we interviewed people who planned their social calendars and dieting cheat days around its re-debut.
But the joy didn’t last, and Taco Bell again discontinued it after only two weeks, citing higher-than-anticipated demand. Fans weren’t shy about their disappointment. “I had more feedback — hate mail! — over the removal of Mexican pizza [than any other time],” Taco Bell CEO Mark King told Fortune magazine.
And so the announcement that the Mexican pizza would return — this time as a permanent menu item — was a big deal among those who like to heed the Bell toll. Some took it as a good sign in these uncertain times. “Folks, I think things are turning around for us,” podcaster Joe Pardavila tweeted.
Mexican Pizza is coming back. Folks, I think things are turning around for us.— Joe Pardavila (@joepardavila) August 3, 2022
Others, though, wondered whether Taco Bell was engaging in the kind of marketing scheme that Coca-Cola did in the 1980s when it switched its formula to “New Coke” and finally reverted to its classic product, all in an effort to grab attention and cement brand loyalty. Taco Bell has denied that it had the whole switch-bait-switch-bait thing planned. Sean Tresvant, Taco Bell’s global chief brand officer, insisted in a May interview with The Washington Post that executives were “surprised” by the initial backlash and didn’t engineer the return as a stunt.
And on its website, the chain sought to dispel that theory and to reassure customers who might be feeling a little fire-sauce-slicked whiplash. “While LTOs [limited time offerings] are core to Taco Bell’s ability to churn out menu innovation, that wasn’t the plan for the Mexican Pizza,” the company said. “While demand and ingredient shortages delayed that permanency, it’ll be here to stay for good when it returns Sept. 15.”
As for whether Bell-heads should trust this latest promise, only time can tell. And on that front, they might want to heed another bit of advice from Franklin, who of course wasn’t thinking specifically of a Taco Bell drive-through line when he cautioned people that actions speak louder than words: “Well done is better than well said.”