Why Taco Bell Tried And Failed To Break Into Mexico

Taco Bell is one of the most successful fast food chains in the entire world. What began as a single eatery in Downey, California, in 1962 has grown into a giant corporation that boasts locations in countries across the world. Yet, despite enormous marketing budgets and some of the best business minds in the world, Taco Bell has failed to find success in the very nation that inspires its menu: Mexico. It's not like other fast food chains haven't established themselves in this country; there are hundreds of KFC and McDonald's restaurants spread across Mexico, so what gives? Here's what it all comes down to: The chain's food is subpar (at best) compared to local Mexican food, and it's more expensive, to boot. Most people find the very concept of Taco Bell in Mexico pretty laughable.


Taco Bell has made two attempts to convince Mexico that its food is worth keeping around, but neither effort lasted more than three years before the company packed up and made a run back to the border. Think about it: You're in Mexico, and you're hungry. On one side of the street is a taqueria offering tacos on freshly made tortillas with your choice of meat, plus fresh guacamole and salsas. Across the street is a Taco Bell making a type of taco that no one in Mexico grew up eating, and it's going to cost you more pesos. Do you really even have to think about it?

Taco Bell goes to Mexico

The year was 1992 when Taco Bell decided to "live mas" and take its business savvy to Mexico. But the company didn't open a brick-and-mortar location; instead, it introduced a food cart in Mexico City that served a small menu featuring soft-shell tacos, burritos, and Pepsi products. Not long after, a few other locations opened, but they all experienced the same issues almost right off the bat. For starters, locals didn't understand what they were ordering because the names of some of the dishes made no sense to them. "Crunchy Tacos" didn't exist in Mexico; authentic tacos as locals knew them came on folded corn tortillas. But tostadas did come on fried, crispy corn shells, so Taco Bell had to re-name its classic Crunchy Tacos "Tacostadas." Big miss, marketing team.


At the time, a cultural critic named Carlos Monsivais told the Associated Press that Taco Bell's foray into Mexico was "like bringing ice to the Arctic" (via Vice). The people of Mexico just weren't convinced that the chain's food was worth saving. In fact, overall, the consensus was confusion as to why an American company would try to sell a version of the food that their home country created? Within two years, all of Taco Bell's Mexican locations had closed.

Taco Bell tries again

You've got to give Taco Bell props for not giving up on what is arguably its most difficult market to decipher. In 2007, the powers that be at the global chain decided to give it another go, this time opening a location next to a Dairy Queen just outside of the city of Monterrey, which is much closer to the U.S. than Mexico City is. The biggest difference in this second attempt was Taco Bell's blatant admission that it was in no way trying to create authentic Mexican food. Rob Poetsch, the company's director of public relations in the mid-2000s, stated to Ad Age, "We're not competing with taquerias. We're a quick-service restaurant, and value and convenience are our core pillars." Indeed, the company proudly included things like french fries and ice cream on its Mexican menus.


But, once again, critics and customers were not impressed, and by 2010, Taco Bell said its final "adios" to the country, at least to date. Since then, the chain has made no more attempts to open any locations in Mexico. Even the largest brands and most successful companies can't have it all. Don't get me wrong — sometimes Taco Bell hits all the right buttons when you're hungry. The food is certainly creative and tasty, but in Mexico, you can do so much better. Just take it from the locals.