Yum! Brands execs admitted this morning that the Waffle Taco is fighting an uphill battle in the fast-food breakfast wars. "We gotta break major habits," CEO David Novak said of Taco Bell's morning menu rollout during Yum!'s quarterly earnings call. "People have a tendency to do the same thing every day. It’s hard to even get our current users to give us a try."
Novak also made clear that he sees breakfast as critical to Taco Bell's national success. "I've always said if you can be successful at breakfast—and we fully intend to be—there's no reason in the world why Taco Bell can't go from 5,000 stores to 8,000 stores in the United States," he said. Fast-food breakfast accounts for tens of billions of dollars in sales in America.
Though Novak stressed that "we are in it to win breakfast," his comments sounded less assured than those of McDonald's CEO Don Thompson on Tuesday. Gesturing to Taco Bell, Thompson said McDonald's had "not seen an impact relative to the most recent competitor that entered the [breakfast] space," and that new competition would only make McDonald's pursue breakfast more aggressively.
Yum!, the corporation behind Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC, reported mixed earnings after the bell on Tuesday. It said same-stores sales at Taco Bell's U.S. locations declined 1 percent in the first quarter, but chalked much of that up to the harsh winter. In the earnings call, execs said Taco Bell will be a first-half, second-half story this year.