The fast-food giant also brought back a meat-free version of the limited-time offer.
Many Taco Bell fans may not even realize that the chain has a higher-end Cantina concept that has been slowly expanding in cities around the U.S. The Yum Brands (YUM) – Get Free Report chain has been slowly growing its secondary brand with each location being a little bit different.
“With this new wave of growth came a more simplified and modern restaurant experience, bringing forward an atmosphere as unique as the community it serves,” the company said in a news release.
“Cantinas reflect fast-paced environments and consumers with tech-forward innovations like kiosks and digital menu boards. Since unveiling its first Cantina in 2015, Taco Bell has introduced more than 60 urban restaurants across the nation.”
Taco Bell has also tested turning the dining rooms of a handful of its traditional stores into Cantina locations while serving the traditional menu via the drive-through.
But even with those efforts, many customers may not know the Cantina brand exists because it has fewer than 100 locations while the chain’s main brand has more than 7,000.
The chain did, however, try to get its higher-end concept some national publicity back in 2021, when its regular locations added the Cantina Crispy Melt Taco. That was a limited-time offer, but for the first time since 2021, the chain has brought back that product, albeit under a new name.
Welcome Back Cantina Crispy Melt Taco
Taco Bell has brought the Cantina Crispy Melt Taco, but it has dropped “Cantina” from its name. Aside from the name tweak, the limited-time-offer taco is the same as it was a couple of years ago.
The Crispy Melt Taco consists of “a white-corn shell, freshly fried daily, with a melted layer of our three-cheese blend and nacho cheese sauce and filled with seasoned beef, reduced-fat sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and real shredded cheddar cheese,” according to the chain’s website.
In addition, the Mexican chain offers a meat-free version of the returning favorite, the Black Bean Crispy Melt Taco. (Take note: When you click on that item on the chain’s menu page, it’s still called the “Cantina Black Bean Crispy Melt Taco.”)
That variation on the returning favorite has the same white corn shell “with a melted layer of our three-cheese blend and nacho cheese sauce and filled with black beans, reduced-fat sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and real shredded cheddar cheese,” according to TacoBell.com.
The chain also celebrated the returning menu item on its Twitter page.
“We’ve updated the International Taco Emoji with a hidden layer of melty cheese, to reflect the Crispy Melt Taco. Check your devices,” the company said.
And while the chain is promoting the cheese layer, the Crispy Melt’s shell is actually different from the ones used for its regular tacos. It’s made with white corn, which has a texture different from that of its traditional yellow-corn shells.
Limited-Time Offers, Value Deliver for Taco Bell
Taco Bell changes its menu as much as, if not more than, any of its fast-food rivals. That has been a sales driver for the brand.
“Overall, Taco Bell did a terrific job this quarter at balancing both ends of the consumer spectrum by featuring premium products that our consumers crave, such as the Grilled Cheese Burrito, with sharply priced items like Nacho Fries,” Yum Chief Executive David Gibbs said during the fourth-quarter earnings call.
Gibbs also says Taco Bell is well-positioned going forward based on pricing pressure and how the chain has delivered value.
“So, as the environment gets more competitive, we’re already in the value game at Taco Bell, and we’re already doing a great job. I don’t see us changing anything. Well, we’re connecting, and we’re winning because of value,” he added.