India’s first Taco Bell opened March 16 at a mall in Bangalore (video at the bottom of this post). Customized to Indians’ tastes and sensibilities, the first location has been very popular in its early days. “Indians haven’t shown this much enthusiasm for American fast food since McDonald’s came to New Delhi and Mumbai more than a decade ago,” writes Saritha Rai of GlobalPost. Corporate conquistadors Yum Brands, who also own KFC and Pizza Hut, plan on having at least 1,000 Taco Bells in India by 2015.
“In India, fast food is a symbol of aspiration, and is priced and patronized accordingly … My Indian coworkers proudly tell me of taking their dates to McDonalds,” writes New Yorker Dave Prager for an Indian magazine. The Bangalore mall that houses India’s first Taco Bell is described by Rai as “India’s newest, biggest and shiniest, spread over a million square feet.”
As a Mexican-themed American fast food chain, Taco Bell may benefit from being seen as doubly exotic. Taco Bell’s India tagline is “Visit Mexico at 18 rupees” (that’s about 40 cents). (The price of a taco is strategically the same as common Indian street food.) Vineet Sharma, a Taco Bell senior manager, explains “We have changed the premise that an exotic cuisine comes at a premium pricing.”
“I’m trying Mexican food for the first time in my life,” said Praful Desai, who celebrated his 65th birthday by taking his family to the Bangalore Taco Bell.
Here’s how Taco Bell is presenting itself to Indians on its website:
Taco Bell offers a wide range of products to mesmerize the Indian consumer. Our menu in India includes a variety of vegetarian and non vegetarian Tacos, Burritos, Signature Quesadillas, Grilled Stuft Burritos, Nachos, and other specialty items. We also offer several combos to satisfy your craving for Taco Bell food at lunch, snack and dinner. It doesn’t stop just here – we also offer unlimited refills on the entire Pepsi beverage range!
We’re not just about great tasting food – the experience of eating at Taco Bell is simply unique. The restaurant ambience is vibrant and dynamic, buzzing with lots of activity, zest and contagious energy. Be it India or anywhere in the world, Taco Bell will always remain consistent in providing a supreme dining experience, which will always compel you to keep coming back for more.
“It took us over two years to perfect our three Vs for India — value, vegetarian and variety,” said Taco Bell’s general manager in India, Ashok Bajpai. Here’s a look at some of the Taco Bell India menu:
- standard-issue tacos come with fried potato instead of beef (there is no beef on the Indian menu)
- “Fajita Veggies Quesadilla” — “filled with fajita veggies, lots of cheese and jalapeno sauce.”
- “Twistease” – “corn twists sprinkled with a tangy cheese and tomato seasoning.”
- a “Potato & Paneer Burrito” filled with Mexican-spiced paneer (Indian cottage cheese) along with nacho cheese sauce
- a “chocodilla,” a tortilla filled with chocolate spread and placed on a quesadilla press
[Image: Seeking Alpha]