The Next Big Things for Taco Bell, Starbucks, and Olive Garden

  • Share
  • Read Later
Mark Lennihan / AP

To broaden their appeal and expand business, each of these big-name chains is trying something new—adding breakfast, alcohol, and special bargain-priced deals, respectively.

Remember Taco Bell’s “fourthmeal,” the late-night snack the restaurant chain wants you to indulge in sometime after dinner and before breakfast? Well, Taco Bell must have realized that instead of inventing new meals no one needs, perhaps it should focus on another one that most people actually eat—just not at Taco Bell.

We’re talking about breakfast. Or, in Taco Bell parlance: “First Meal.”

Plans have been in the works for Taco Bell breakfast for more than a year. Next week, reports the Los Angeles Times and others, some 750 Taco Bell locations around the U.S. will finally start offering “First Meal” items such as breakfast burritos, Johnsonville sausage and egg wraps, and Seattle’s Best Coffee.

(MORE: Why January Is the Best Month for Cheap Fast Food)

Unlike Taco Bell, Starbucks has no problem filling up its stores during the morning hours. Afternoons and evenings are a different story, though. To attract customers during the late-in-the-day lulls when relatively few consumers are jonesing for caffeine fixes, Starbucks is adding alcohol at more of its U.S. locations.

Bloomberg says that as many as 25 Starbucks coffeehouses will be selling wine and beer, as well as snacks that go well with booze like cheese-and-fruit plates and focaccia with olive oil. Six Starbucks stores in the Northwest sell beer and wine right now—$5 for a beer, $7 to $9 for a glass of wine—and the new spots adding alcohol to the menu include locations in Atlanta, Chicago, and Southern California.

(MORE: Fine Dining on the Cheap: Restaurants on Sale Coast to Coast)

The Olive Garden, on the other hand, isn’t trying to cope with a certain time period when business is slow. Business seems to be slow during most hours its restaurants are open. The Orlando Sentinel reports that sales have been slipping for months, and that the corporate owner, Darden Restaurants, which also owns Red Lobster, is planning a makeover:

To improve sales, Olive Garden will remodel restaurants and revamp the menu, adding lower-priced dishes. Its long-running ads with actors portraying perky families will get replaced, with an as-yet undisclosed new campaign.

(MORE: Olive Garden Admits to Making Up ‘Authentic’ Italian Dishes Like ‘Pastachetti’)

The revamped menu has yet to be introduced. For the time being, Olive Garden has rolled out four different promotional three-course meals for $12.95, in which each comes with soup or salad, one of five entrees, dessert, and unlimited breadsticks. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of perky or non-perky actors are going to try to convince us what great deals these are.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest