Back in November of 2020, Taco Bell did a little house cleaning, clearing out a few items from its menu. The restaurant chain said it was so it could make room for stuff it thought people would like better. The Mexican Pizza was one of the items that didn't make the cut.
It's an interesting story about why expectations matter, whether you're selling fast food or anything else. Every business can learn something from what happens when you don't live up to your customer's expectations
"We're constantly evaluating ways to provide a more efficient restaurant experience, and have already begun to see progress from streamlining our menu," Mike Grams, Taco Bell's president, explained at the time. "This evolution of our menu truly paves the way for fresh new ideas. The creativity and innovation in our kitchen hasn't slowed down at all, and we look forward to rolling out new fan favorites."
Sometimes, however, people aren't looking for "fresh new ideas." Sometimes, late at night, when they get hungry, they just want to get in their car and get a Mexican Pizza.
It didn't take long before it became clear the company might have underestimated just how much people like the Mexican Pizza. An online petition trying to convince the company to save the popular item received over 171,000 signatures.
Have you ever had a Mexican Pizza? That's a lot of people trying to save a fast food item. But, who can explain why the heart loves what it does?
At some point, Taco Bell seems to have realized that sometimes the best thing you can do is to give people what they want. Eighteen months later, the Mexican Pizza is back. Well, sort of.
In addition to a return to the menu, there were plans for a Mexican Pizza musical on Tik Tok. I really have no idea what that even means, but clearly, Taco Bell wanted to make a big deal out of the return of everyone's favorite microwaved tortilla.
There was just one problem: a lot of customers noticed that the new version wasn't quite the same as the old version. It looked mostly the same, but there is definitely a difference in taste. Do you know what happens when you tell people they are getting something they love, only to have it fail to live up to their expectations? It's not good.
In its announcement back in April, Taco Bell alluded to the change:
"Saucy fan pleas alone aren't all it took to get the Mexican Pizza back to menus," Taco Bell said last month announcing the return. "The masterminds in the Taco Bell test kitchen worked to streamline operations and ingredient sourcing."
I get that fast food restaurants are all about streamlining just about everything, but if you're going to bring back a fan favorite, don't mess with it. Taco Bell says it didn't change the recipe, but Mexican Pizza devotees disagree. As bad as that is, it turns out there is an even bigger problem, which was that it's almost impossible to actually buy a Mexican Pizza.
In a Facebook post, a Taco Bell employee shared that "Everyone was so excited about the Mexican pizzas, Taco Bell did not estimate the amount of pizza sales, and all the warehouses in the nation are out of pizza products." That same employee's Facebook post continues that Taco Bell expects to run out by next week.
I mean, 171,000 people took the time to go online and put their names on a petition. Taco Bell made a TikTok musical. The idea that they went through all of that trouble without anticipating people would actually want to buy them is a bit, well, shortsighted.
More importantly, if you decide to bring back one of your customer's favorite products, you should probably do that--not some variation of that. And, you probably shouldn't do it until you're reasonably sure you'll have the ingredients to actually sell them to customers who show up and want them.
I think if you were to ask the people who love the Mexican Pizza which is worse--to have your favorite product taken off the menu, or to have it brought back but you still can't buy it anyway--I'm pretty sure the latter would win in a landslide. That's because the worst thing you can possibly do is to make a promise you can't keep.
You see, promises create expectations, and expectations are everything. The only thing worse than disappointing your customers is saying you're going to make it up to them, and then not.
Clearly, Taco Bell made a mistake when it took the Mexican Pizza off the menu. Unfortunately, it made an even bigger mistake when it brought it back.