Taco Bell, the Mexican-themed chain under Yum Brands Inc, is making a comeback in the Chinese mainland to test diners' appetite for nachos.
The latest drive marks a test for Yum China Holdings－which operates household names such as KFC and Pizza Hut and has just become independent through an initial public offering－toward its goal of adding 600 stores per year on the mainland over the coming five years, said Chief Executive Officer Micky Pant.
"As we become an independent firm, the timing is good to launch the brand, which is our most profitable business in the United States," Pant told China Daily.
The taco and burrito chain opened locations in the mainland in 2003, but expansion didn't take off.
This time, it is adjusting its menu to suit local tastes, including serving more hot food, crafting special sauces, and ensuring prices are more affordable, Pant said.
For example, a two-taco combo, which includes two tacos, one side dish and one soft drink, is priced at 48 yuan ($6.90).
Targeting the young and adventurous people, the chain is also actively seeking locations for expansion in several cities, a plan expected to be announced in the middle of this year, he added.
Newly built airports and high-speed railway stations are where Yum China sees greater potential for investment, as the firm celebrated 30 years in the Chinese mainland, where the craze for Western fast food is fading.
Taco Bell is also improving the overall customer experience by providing free Wi-Fi, digital ordering kiosks, large menu boards and a range of payment options, including Alipay and WeChat Pay, the dominant e-wallets in the mainland.
This is a consistent strategy that Yum China has deployed in boosting sales across its 7,300 outlets. Revamping delivery services and ventures into digital marketing are among the top priorities, Pant said.
"By separating its China business, Yum has clearly unlocked its power and gained the flexibility needed to make bolder moves," said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, who is bullish on Taco Bell's return to the mainland.