Taco Bell is going to win the morning with its one-handed breakfasts

Rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototyping.
Image: AP Photo/Taco Bell
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American fast-food chain Taco Bell is getting into the breakfast business. The Mexican food eatery is planning to roll out a new breakfast menu on March 27, which will include a hefty line of offerings, including a breakfast burrito, grilled breakfast taco, and even a waffle taco.

And pretty much all of those tap into a core trait Americans are looking for in fast-food breakfast items: they can be eaten using just one hand.

The US breakfast business at other fast food chains—including McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Burger King—has become a $50 billion dollar behemoth. Breakfast accounted for over 90% of growth in the fast-food industry between 2007 and 2012. Taco Bell would be foolish to sit on the sidelines while its competitors ate its…well.

But Taco Bell’s breakfast push, which began with test run last year, also makes a lot of sense for its focus on items that can be easily eaten one-handed.  That is key, especially for commuters who drive and need a free hand, according to a paper published in MIT Sloan Management Review, which explored why McDonald’s was able to sell milkshakes at breakfast. “They were in a hurry, they were wearing work clothes, and they had, at most, one free hand,” it concluded. Customers want breakfast options that are both cheap and portable, a 2012 study by market research firm Technomic Inc. found as well.

Taco Bell’s marketing explicitly touts its morning items’ suitability for being eaten one-handed. ”It’s everything you love about breakfast wrapped into a one-handed sandwich. It’s the most portable breakfast sandwich in the business,” chief marketing officer Chris Brandt said of the new A.M. Crunchwrap, which is likely the least one-handable option on Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu.

The company says it’s determined to separate itself from what its competitors have to offer. “We’re going to reinvent breakfast,” Taco Bell president Brian Niccol told USA Today. “We don’t use buns or burgers or circular things at breakfast — that’s not who we are.” In their pursuit of easier-to-hold breakfasts, other fast-food chains could well start offering breakfast tacos and burritos as well.