Need a ride? Need a snack? You're in luck. Ride-share company Lyft today announced a late-night hookup with Taco Bell. It's almost the Millennial dream team, except that the top ride and fast food preferences are held by other companies. Still, it's an interesting promotion--that raises some literally messy questions.

It's another addition to the genius business moves Lyft's been making as Uber's wildly inappropriate gaffes have brought out the haters. And it's an interesting choice for Taco Bell, showing it understands the importance of cheap junk food late at night when younger adults may have been out drinking. (With any luck, it will be more effective for the company than Chipotle's current free-food promotion that hit just as stories of food-borne illnesses at the chain were spreading.)

Taco Mode is an in-app option for Lyft riders, providing passengers with the ultimate Taco Bell experience--including a free Doritos Locos Taco when you ride-thru Taco Bell on the way to your next destination. Taco Mode will be available--first as a limited release--in Orange County, California, July 27-30, and August 3-6, 2017, between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. Taco Mode will then expand into additional markets by year's end, with a nationwide rollout in 2018.

Because the deal's been in the works for a year, according to what Lyft told the New York Times, it's unlikely the Chipotle stories had anything to do with the company's choice of food partner. According to an analysis by Foursquare on its location reporting data, Chipotle is actually the No. 1 choice of the Millennial set. Taco Bell is No. 5, which still isn't terrible. Plus, Chipotle has 2,250 U.S. locations while Taco Bell has 7,000, and so offers a broader opportunity.

The connection between customers and drinking, or at least carousing, seems reasonable, given the hours of operation for the promotion. Smart move, right? Well, let's see what the drivers ultimately have to say. If you've ever worked in the taxi or hospitality industries, as I have, you know how, uh, challenging intoxicated customers can be. And if you're in a car in which people who have been drinking get cheap fast food, the passengers could end up challenging all over the floor and upholstery.

Lyft told the New York Times that Taco Bell isn't paying to be in the deal. Instead, this is all about "experience" and making customers happy.

There's also word that drivers, who use their own vehicles, can opt in. The question is, what percentage will want to take the chances offered by a potentially tipsy clientele. Better a choice than needing to develop partnerships with a cleaning service, as well as a manufacturer of air fresheners.

Published on: Jul 25, 2017
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