Taco Bell Quietly Debuts Dollar Cravings Menu

Some prices actually went up a bit in the process

With very little fanfare, Taco Bell went national this week with the 11-item, everything's-a-dollar menu that it had been testing in select locations for almost a year. The move marks a rebranding of its longstanding Why Pay More menu to the new Dollar Cravings Menu.

Customers across the United States can now purchase a Cheese Roll-Up, Caramel Apple Empanada, Triple Layer Nachos, Beefy Mini Quesadilla, Cinnamon Twists, Cinnabon Delights 2 Pack, Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito, Beefy Frito Burrito, Spicy Tostada, Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla or Spicy Potato Soft Taco for exactly $1. Or, you could buy the whole menu for a Hamilton and a Washington.

The fast-food chain tweeted a picture of the low-cost options, but no national ad campaign has been launched to supplement an earlier series of radio spots Deutsch LA reportedly produced for a single dollar. Taco Bell's parent Yum Brands also kept quiet, making no press statement and dedicating its most recent social media posts to hunger relief activities and staff recognitions.

On Taco Bell's YouTube channel, you won't find a traditional ad for the new menu, but you will find this 3-minute "haul video" from YouTube personalities Steve Zaragoza and Lee Newton of SourceFed:

An interesting quirk to Taco Bell's latest pricing strategy is that three items were previously sold for 99 cents at most of the chain's restaurants. As Money noted, "For historically cheap Taco Bell, known for rolling out burritos for 59 cents and 79 cents during the recession and pricing entire meals for just $2 not long ago, a dollar menu means that many customers might actually pay more (not less) than they used to."

To be fair, the price increase for a potato taco, cheese roll-up or cinnamon twists is just a penny. Also, with competitors such as McDonald's adding the qualifier "and more" to their own dollar menus and charging as much as $2 for some selections, fast food customers might still see Taco Bell's menu as a deal.

One positive sign came from GrubGrade's chief blogger Ryan, who sampled every Dollar Cravings offering during a single lunch. He rated the food slightly above average overall and concluded, "I love value menus, and when they're set up where everything is the same price, I love them even more. Spending a few bucks to create your own combo is what I wish for at every fast food restaurant."