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Category Archives: taco bell

10 gross reasons why fast food needs robot workers

taco-bell-licking

The other day I wrote about how surprising it was that robot Zambonis aren’t yet widespread. Even more amazing is the fact that fast-food joints aren’t yet entirely staffed by robots.

It seems like a new tale of fast-food employee grossness emerges weekly, with the latest involving a KFC worker in Wales who claimed on Facebook to have inserted pubic hair into customers’ meals. KFC said it had investigated the incident and found it to be untrue, but the damage was already done.

Such incidents, many of which turn out to be real indeed, are almost a form of corporate terrorism. While it’s highly unlikely that the average customer will ever get a meal contaminated with pubes, boogers, spit or other bodily fluids, hearing about such isolated cases is enough to sour perceptions and put a person off fast food entirely.

With employees of such chains around the world expressing anger over their low wages, it’s also likely these incidents will continue and possibly even increase in frequency. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Burger King, domino's, food, mcdonald's, robots, taco bell, wendy's

 

Chipotle bringing vegan burritos to Canada

sofritasVegetarian burrito fans in Canada rejoice – Chipotle is bringing Sofritas north. Starting Monday, the fast casual chain will be serving up the vegan tofu filling in burritos, tacos, salads and taco bowls alongside regular meat options in its one Vancouver and eight Toronto outlets.

The Denver-based chain has been testing Sofritas in a few U.S. markets over the past year. My vegetarian wife and I happened to be in one of them (San Francisco) last week and we just happened to pop into a Chipotle for a quick lunch. Now, I wouldn’t dream of eating a vegetarian option when meat is available, but my wife wasted no time in ordering it. Chipotle’s only other option for vegetarians has typically been burritos or tacos with a few veggies and a big dollop of guacamole, so she was quite excited for the new tofu choice.

The verdict? She liked it quite a bit. The tofu is as close as it gets to sausage – it’s modeled on chorizo. “It doesn’t taste like tofu because of the spices,” she says, and it includes chipotle chilis and poblanos.

Vegetarians already account for about seven to 10 per cent of Chipotle’s business, according to communications director Chris Arnold, who I chatted with in Toronto this week. Despite its newness, Sofritas is already accounting for about three to four per cent, he said. The tofu option is obviously proving popular.

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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in food, mcdonald's, taco bell

 

Review: Taco Bell breakfast a pleasant experience

The Waffle Taco: it actually kind of looks like a taco.

The Waffle Taco: it actually kind of looks like a taco.

It’s not every day you get to live out Taco Bell’s “run for the border” slogan, but that’s exactly what a friend and I did on Thursday morning as we headed to New York state to try the chain’s new breakfast menu.

Pretty much everyone we encountered had a hard time believing we were indeed making the hour-and-a-half drive from Toronto to Niagara Falls, New York, just for some fast food. The evidently suspicious border guard asked me to roll down my back window, hand over my keys and pop the trunk. I’d never been searched before and had a hard time imagining what he must have been thinking or looking for. Do two dudes alone in a car often smuggle things into the U.S.? And what would we be smuggling – beaver pelts, or perhaps Kraft Dinner?

Nevertheless, we were but innocent taco seekers with nothing to hide, so we were soon on our way. We arrived at the Taco Bell at 7300 Niagara Falls Boulevard – I’m mentioning the address for a specific reason, which I’ll get to below – just after nine. To our delight, posters highlighting the new breakfast menu hung in the window. The restaurant was empty as we entered and the counter staff greeted us warmly. They asked where we were from and looked as surprised as the border guard upon learning we’d come all the way from Canada. We’d apparently missed the big rush – customers had been waiting since six a.m. for the restaurant to open at seven.

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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in food, mcdonald's, taco bell, tim hortons

 

Fast food 2.0: apps, robots will change everything

taco-bellComputerworld has a cool story on how mobile apps are changing fast food. By allowing customers to pre-order ahead of time on their phones, big chains are effectively making their whole processes much faster and more efficient.

Taco Bell’s test, currently happening in five Southern California locations, is particularly ingenious in that it doesn’t just allow for pre-ordering, it also charges the user’s credit card, so no transactions are necessary at the restaurant itself. Moreover, the app uses the phone’s GPS to signal the restaurant that the customer is approaching. That way, you can place your order and the preparers will only start work on it when you’re a few minutes away. Talk about just-in-time food.

As the article illustrates, doing this isn’t a big stretch for chains because it is usually just a case of taking what the cashier sees on their register and repurposing it into an app. Whether the order is coming from the front counter or from across town, it makes no difference to the people preparing the food, which is why everyone – including Taco Bell, McDonald’s, KFC, Papa John’s and others – are in the process of developing and testing such systems. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in food, mobile, taco bell

 

2013: The best (and worst) in fast food

wendys-pretzel

Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger: Yes, please.

It was a fun year for fast-food, if quirky new menu items are your idea of fun. In their never-ending quest to outdo each other, the big chains kept customers guessing with a steady raft of new concoctions, some better than others.

I sometimes get asked why I write about fast-food, since technology is my main purview. I generally give one of three reasons. For one, it’s something of a holdover from Sex, Bombs and Burgers, the book I wrote about how the military, pornography and fast-food industries are technology leaders. I don’t write as much about the other two businesses these days, but fast-food has strangely proven to be a popular topic with readers. I can also justify it with the notion that all these new products come through similar research and development pipelines as smartphones, tablets and other gadgets. Mostly, though, I write about fast-food as the occasional diversion – it’s nice to take a break from the routine every one in a while. As such, I’ve made it my mission to try the big new releases. I’m happy to report that I got to most of them this year.

McDonald’s had a busy year, especially here in Canada. The company finally gave vegetarian Canadians something to eat this summer with two veggie wraps. Coming in two flavours – spicy Santa Fe or garlicky Mediterranean – the wraps are sizable and pretty tasty (my vegetarian wife, normally a harsh critic of such things, approves). Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Burger King, burgers, food, mcdonald's, taco bell, wendy's

 

Doritos Tacos supply running out in Canada

doritos-loco-tacoCanadian fans of Taco Bell’s Doritos Tacos Locos – and you know I’m one of ’em – better eat them up fast (or maybe not?) as they could soon disappear from the chain’s restaurants here.

A Doritos insider – and yes, I’m being completely serious – tells me the Canadian arm of the chain has been caught unawares of just how much demand there is for the devilishly delicious tacos, to the point where supplies of the nacho cheese-flavoured shells are running low. My informant tells me Taco Bell ordered a million shells to start with which, at the current rate of consumption, will run out within three weeks, or early November. Doritos Tacos Locos would then drop off the menu until some time in 2014.

Veronica Castillo, marketing manager for Yum Brands in Canada, confirms that the DLTs are indeed limited-time items, although she wouldn’t say how much supply is left. “We’re working really hard to secure enough product to make it a permanent item,” she says. “I can’t say we’re going to run out soon. We’re in good shape.”

Taco Bell started selling the Doritos items in Canada in September, more than a year and a half after they launched in the United States. The product was so successful there, Taco Bell credited it with the creation of 15,000 new jobs in 2012. Two new flavours, Cool Ranch and Fiery, were added this year. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in food, taco bell

 

Taco Bell turns Canada’s Doritos anger into a plus

doritos-loco-tacoThe big news of the week has to be that a long-awaited American product is finally making its way north. Verizon cellphones? Heck no. It’s Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos, which will be available in Canada as of Sept. 2.

Even better is the particularly ingenious marketing campaign attached to the tacos. A good number of Canadians – including yours truly – have been fuming for nearly two years over the inexplicable unavailability of the hugely popular product north of the border. The chain decided to turn that veritable anger into a plus by making some complainers eat their words, literally.

As the video spot below shows, Taco Bell brought in a few individuals who had posted angry comments on social media, then presented them with Doritos tacos that had those comments etched in with a laser. The result, predictably, was chuckles: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in taco bell