The entrance of American-style fast food chains into the Aussie market is something we are becoming all too familiar with.

Well-known giants hailing from the States like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Domino’s and Subway are among those who have succeeded locally. Their success can be attributed to their ability to ‘Australianize’ and adapt to a more health conscious consumer.

Not all chains, however, were able to sustain the hype.

Stores like Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, Burger King, Chilli’s and Taco Bell all failed to either understand local preferences or struggled with legal battles, eventually sending them packing back to the land of the free.

Interestingly, Taco Bell has it’s sights set on a third visit down under, as it maintains a persistent desire to finally crack the Mexican fast-food market in this country.

Lets taco about it.

First entering in 1981, they were forced to withdraw after a trademark dispute with a Sydney business named ‘Taco Bell’s Casa’.

In 1997, they re-entered the market with a store in the Sydney CBD and some joint stores with KFC, but were again forced to pull out by the early 2000’s due to poor sales.

What we can gather is that the Mexican restaurant entered our shores too early for its own good. They launched into a market where, at the time, Mexican fast food was not a customary lunchtime meal. Chains like Guzman Y Gomez, Mad Mex and Zambrero have since filled that gap, reaping the reward of exponential growth.

Free burrito day at Guzman y Gomez to launch a new restaurant

Director of Marketing Angels, Michelle Gamble believes the existing players in the market have the power to maintain customer loyalty, given they play to their strengths.

Gamble states “I think they’re well positioned to deal with it, and I think there is a lot to be said for the Mexican brands in Australia, and brands have done a lot around things like making sure chicken is free range”.

For example, Guzman Y Gomez recently pledged to use 100% free-range chicken across all of its menu items. Similarly, Zambrero attempts to remain competitive through its social enterprise projects, contributing to their noble brand image.

What’s different this time around?

Taco Bell’s Australian store is located in Queensland’s Annerley – a small suburban town located 4 kilometres south of Brisbane CBD. It is strategically positioned between two main University campuses, with the closest alternative Mexican fast-food chain a 10-minute drive away.

Further, in order to compete with existing competition, the addition of a drive-thru is hoped to put a smile on the face of those ambitious enough to devour a DoubleDilla at the nearest red light. While, those wishing to dine in have the option of washing back their fried chicken shell taco with an alcoholic beverage.

Though the future of Taco Bell is unclear, there is no denying that this may be their last knock at the door of Australia’s consumer appetite.

Perhaps the initial opening of a single outlet will serve as testing ground for some new innovative ideas, enabling the ‘hype’ around Taco Bell to spread nationally and ultimately allow them to get a foothold in the market….or is really too late for tacos? Time will tell.

Author Robert Joannides

Robert is a Junior Strategist at RetailOasis

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