The secret origin of the Waffle Taco has been revealed

Rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototyping.
Image: AP Photo/Taco Bell
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The Waffle Taco is by far the most prominent and talked-about offering in Taco Bell’s efforts to crack McDonald’s long standing dominance of the US fast-food breakfast market.

According to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, the idea didn’t originally come from years of lab tinkering, but through a Facebook photo. A friend of Taco Bell’s head of product development, Heather Mottershaw, posted a photo of a waffle breakfast sandwich at another unnamed restaurant on a Saturday. She brought frozen waffles to work early Monday morning, bent them into a taco shape, and had an egg and sausage version in front of executives a couple hours later.

The rest, 80 different variations of waffle, shape, and filling later, is history.

Unexpectedly, the Waffle Taco isn’t the best selling item on Taco Bell’s breakfast menu, despite being its flagship. That honor goes to the A.M.Crunchwrap, an egg-filled re-imagining of a popular six sided taco-quesadilla hybrid the company has sold since 2006.

While the breakfast launch has been initially popular—22% of Taco Bell’s fast-food customers tried one of the new menu items in the first week—the company expects its whole breakfast menu to account for less than 10% of overall sales for now. That means less than $39.1 million in quarterly revenue, using the company’s most recent fiscal quarter as a guideline.

McDonald’s, on the other hand, gets some 25% of its US sales from breakfast. That would be over $500 million last quarter in just one country, dwarfing Taco Bell’s global revenue last quarter. Taco Bell, of course, has a fraction as many locations as McDonald’s. Which means it will have its work cut out to become a real player in the estimated $50-billion-a-year fast-food breakfast market.

Nonetheless, McDonald’s looks like it’s starting to run a bit scared. The last few months have seen the company take frequent jabs at its competition, through emphasizing that it actually cooks its food, offering a free coffee promotion, and sending snide tweets.