Fast food restaurants often market the dining experience as much as the food itself. Those that do must ensure that their messaging and customer experiences align—with what they actually offer, as well as with what their customers expect from the dining establishment.
For Taco Bell, the three pillars of the customer experience are taste, accuracy when filling an order, and speed, says Ellie Doty, Taco Bell’s senior manager of marketing.
Speed is particularly important to Taco Bell’s business, as 70% of the restaurant’s customers have their meals to go and order their food via the drive through. Of course, the problem with doing things quickly is that there’s more opportunity for mistakes. To reconcile speed with accuracy, Doty says, the fast food chain uses order confirmation boards, which have the double benefit of expediting the food delivery process while reassuring customers that their orders are correct. (Taco Bell also has an internal process to ensure that each order is correct.)
“As you’re ordering you can see that the person who you can’t see is actually getting your order right,” Doty says. Taste, accuracy, and speed are the central tenets of most fast food chains, which is why friend and peer referrals are so important to Taco Bell’s business—more important, says Doty, than any other channel. This is especially true when Taco Bell introduces new products that target slightly different markets, like its Cantina Bell menu—a collection of “gourmet inspired bowls and burritos,” she says.
To highlight the quality of Cantina Bell items, the chain partnered with celebrity Chef Lorena Garcia, who embarked on a nationwide tour to speak with various Taco Bell employees, and starred in both employee training videos and television ads.
Though ads emphasizing the quality of the food might get customers to give Taco Bell’s Cantina Bell items a taste test, positive word-of-mouth will drive the most customers to try the new items, Doty says. “If your friend tries it and tells you it’s really good, you’re going to believe your friend, whereas if you see it on TV, maybe you’ll go, maybe you won’t,” she explains. However, to mitigate the sense of risk, the Mexican fast food chain has implemented a policy with the new menu promising money back if customers aren’t satisfied.
“We had heard from [our customers] loud and clear that they’re moving away from food as fuel—just fill me up, give me something to go on for the day—and are really looking at it more as an experience,” Doty says. “Something that’s worth talking about, maybe telling a friend about; something they really enjoy doing.”