It didn’t seem like it was going to be that big of a deal, or so thought the head honchos at the Mexican food chain, Taco Bell. One of their menu items, the once-popular Taco Bell Mexican Pizza, was dipping drastically in sales (more on that later) so the smart move, figured those same head honchos, would be to remove the item permanently from its menu. So, they did. Then all Taco Bell hell broke loose.
WHAT IS THE TACO BELL MEXICAN PIZZA?
Who doesn’t love Mexican food? Who doesn’t love pizza? Well, in 1985, Taco Bell decided to combine those two loves into one. When they first introduced it to a hungry public, it wasn’t called the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza. It went by a completely different name – Pizzazz Pizza. For three years this is what it was called. In 1988, Taco Bell decided to rebrand the Pizzazz Pizza by changing its name to the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza. Taco Bell referred to it as a brand new item, but those in the know (those who ate it) saw that the only change in the item was its name. Check out a 1985 commercial for Taco Bell’s Pizzazz Pizza.
To give it the new feel they were looking for, Taco Bell advertised the “new” item differently than they had the Pizzazz Pizza. With the Pizzazz Pizza, Taco Bell called it their midnight snack. Something for those with the late-night munchies. When the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza was introduced, the food chain leaned on the fresh ingredients angle. They highlighted the combination of the best Mexican and Italian cuisine elements.
The original Mexican Pizza included ground beef, tomatoes, black olives, green onions, and a two-cheese blend. The beef was layered in between two fried flour tortillas and the pizza look was achieved with the remaining ingredients set on top of the flour tortilla. Over the years, the original Taco Bell Mexican pizza dropped two of the ingredients, black olives, and green onions, for no other reason than Taco Bell decided to phase those out. They eventually replaced those toppings with refried beans and went from a two-cheese blend to a three-cheese blend.
WHY DID TACO BELL DISCONTINUE THE MEXICAN PIZZA?
Dipping in sales? Depends on who you ask. Matt Prince is a Taco Bell senior manager of PR and brand experience and when the news broke about Taco Bell discontinuing the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza, he had to face the wrath of certain family members. “There was a lesson in behavioral science,” said Prince via PR Week. “I had some family members ask why we took it off the menu and I asked them, ‘Well, when was the last time you had one?’ And they said, “Fifteen years ago.” And I said, ‘Well, that’s one of the reasons.’” But was it? Were Taco Bell Mexican Pizza sales truly dipping enough for Taco Bell to remove it from their menu?
Prince continued to lean on the dipping sales, stating that the outcry after the Mexican Pizza was discontinued was more of a nostalgia thing than anything else. He claims people were thinking of better times before the COVID pandemic established its foothold on the country.
“Being such a nostalgic product pushed on people’s emotions in a different way that we haven’t seen out of a product,” said Prince. This “nostalgia” angle took on a life of its own. Outrage followed to the point that a change.org petition started and received over 200,000 signatures to bring back the “nostalgic” item. According to Prince, though, bringing it back is a while lot easier said than done.
“People don’t realize the lead times for ingredients; for example, just the chilies for the Mexican Pizza’s sauce take months and months to harvest,” said Prince. “So, it isn’t a matter of flipping a switch on or off to bring it back.” Whether that switch can be flipped easily or not is not the concern of those who want to see it back on the menu. They just want it to happen.
WILL TACO BELL BRING BACK THE MEXICAN PIZZA?
It wasn’t simply the petition that had Taco Bell reconsidering bringing back the Mexican Pizza, but it was also the social media outcry, one that was led by rapper Doja Cat. She was a true fan of the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza and made no bones about her displeasure of Taco Bell removing it from their menu. It was right about then that Taco Bell realized not only did they underestimate those who loved the item, but they may be on to a money-making campaign the company hadn’t seen in some time.
Taco Bell smartly shifted its position by not shutting down Doja Cat but instead partnering with her. “We didn’t want this campaign to be positioned in a way where Taco Bell was bringing the pizza back,” said Prince. “More so it was Doja and the fans that brought it back.” Doja Cat was not shy about her role in bringing it back either.
The first major hint that a comeback was in the works came during the Super Bowl with one of Taco Bell’s commercials. In it, the Mexican food chain told the world whoever signed up for their Taco Bell Rewards loyalty program by February 13 who then get a nice surprise on May 19. That surprise ended up being the reintroduction of the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza. Fans were thrilled to the point that Taco Bell was not ready for the overwhelming reaction.
UH OH, GONE AGAIN
Taco Bell was simply not prepared. To be fair, it may not be that simple. We all know the troubles across the country with getting products into stores, well the same has been seen in restaurants. So, that can definitely be one of the issues Taco Bell ran into. Regardless, the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza is no longer. They say it is the overwhelming demand. More than likely it is a combination of factors, but the bottom line is, the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza was on the menu on May 19th, and shortly thereafter, it was long gone.
Does this mean the end of the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza? Not hardly. Taco Bell knows it has a good thing going. Although it has vanished from the menu for now, Taco Bell promises it will be back. They even reached out to their millions of Mexican pizza lovers on their website with a letter addressing the fact.
“You signed petitions. You Tweeted. “Bring back the Mexican Pizza!” And, it was clear, that’s what needed to happen,” was how they started the letter. “Our restaurant teams trained weeks for what we knew would be a big return. We just didn’t realize how big. One fan’s order included 180 Mexican Pizzas. A Roseville, CA restaurant sold over 1,000 in one day. Demand was more than seven times than it was the last time it was on our menu.”
Taco Bell then went on to explain that although they have sold out of the popular Mexican pizza, fear not because they are currently working with their suppliers to get the Mexican pizza back into hungry stomachs by fall. They also made it a point to say that they “anticipate the Mexican Pizza to return to its permanent residency on the Taco Bell menu.” The power of the people. You can read their entire letter here.