Del Taco Tries ‘Bold’ Approach

Del Taco is looking to 99-cent tacos and stripper poles to get consumers’ attention.

The No. 3 taco chain, faced with the rapid growth Chipotle and Qdoba Mexican Grill, launched its new “Go Bold or Go Home” ad campaign on Sept. 17.

The first ad, which features an elderly couple ordering a stripper pole for their home, is part of brand’s “bold” overhaul. Packaging, companywide rallies and TV, online, movie and print ads will carry the bold theme. The initial round of ads, via Doner, Southfield, Mich., promotes the 99-cent Classic Taco.

The taste positioning is a common them in the taco category. Taco Bell, which is far and away the category leader, is currently pushing its “Volcano Taco.” “The Mexican chains do have distinctive flavor. Taco Bell [pushes theirs] with the constant limited-time-only products. They constantly have product news,” said Jeff Davis, president, of the San Clemente, Calif.-based restaurant marketing research firm Sandelman & Associates. “Del Taco has to compete in that area.”

Most of the taco chains are pushing value during this down economy. Taco Bell marketing asks “Why Pay More?” Meanwhile, Qdoba is running the summer-long “Love Ya Back” promotion. Patrons who five purchase five entrees at Qdoba get one free.

Taco Bell rang up $6 billion in sales last year on roughly flat sales growth, per Technomic, Chicago. No.2 Chipotle grew 26.2% to $1.1 billion in sales. Del Taco was up 2.6% to $500 million in sales and Qdoba was gaining fast surging 42.9% to $380 million.

“The Mexican segment is doing fine. It’s a good value,” said Davis. “Chipotle and Qdoba are getting a lot of growth from unit expansion. Del Taco has more established units. It needs to try and grow from getting more occasions from their existing customer base.”

Del Taco’s evp-marketing Sharon Fogg said in a statement: “The more noise we can make the better.” Del Taco spent $10 million for the first half of the year on media, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.