Despite growing health consciousness and increasingly sophisticated palates, Americans flocked to Taco Bell last year, fueling the staggering success of the Doritos Locos Tacos. Indeed, the Doritos-shell taco is getting credit as the main factor behind Taco Bell's 8% boost in same-stores sales in 2012, a year that saw it add 15,000 employees. "And it’s a sign, however troubling to nutritionists, that US companies can still prosper by pitching new, innovative products to the perpetually pinched American consumer," writes Daniel Gross for the Daily Beast.
Gross looks at that and other factors behind the success of the chain, which has been "focusing on its own backyard" rather than gunning for overseas expansion like most of its peers. It sees the path to success as reliant on being "better and more relevant": Getting existing customers to return more often (see: the Cool Ranch version) and bringing in new customers, like health-conscious women. The latter may seem like a tall order for the maker of a Doritos taco, but it's attempting just that with its Chipotle-like Cantina Bell line. But it also means looking at other parts of the business, like labor. "The top thing that customers look at is how people treat their employees," says its CEO. "In a country that is raising a new generation of food snobs, asking to be judged on labor relations rather than taste may be a smart long-term move," writes Gross. (Read more Taco Bell stories.)