How Facebook Helped Give Us the Waffle Taco

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May 30 2014 10:35 AM

How Taco Bell Created the Waffle Taco

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Eighty iterations comes up with this?

Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr

The Waffle Taco may be the buzziest thing to hit the breakfast industry this year. The eggs-and-syrup drenched concoction rolled out in March as part of Taco Bell's new breakfast menu and has proven a marketing gem for the chain and parent corporation Yum! Brands. But how did it come to be?

Bloomberg Businessweek has the sweet and sticky details in a groundbreaking report on Taco Bell's recipe creation process. As reporter Venessa Wong tells the story, Taco Bell director for product development Heather Mottershaw got the idea while scrolling through her Facebook feed one Saturday morning. A photo posted by a friend showed a waffle folded around eggs, avocados, and other Southern-California style ingredients. Inspired, Mottershaw ran out to purchase a box of generic waffles so that she could test the idea herself:

“I brought the waffles in Monday morning at 7 a.m. and just started playing with them in the kitchen,” she recalls. By taking the frozen waffle, leaving it to thaw at room temperature, folding it, and flash frying it in Taco Bell’s chalupa baskets, she ended up with a crispy waffle in the shape of a taco shell. By 9 a.m. it was stuffed with eggs, sausage, and cheese and being evaluated by executives at Taco Bell’s Irvine (Calif.) headquarters. “As soon as the team started to see it,” she says, “there was this instant excitement, this buzz that this is a cool idea, this is a big idea.”
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Taco Bell's team went through 80 iterations (waffle shape, weight, thickness, amount of vanilla flavoring, and fillings) before the fast-food chain settled on its final version. And despite its status as a fast-food novelty, the Waffle Taco is in fact not the best-selling item on Taco Bell's new breakfast menu. That title goes to the A.M. Crunchwrap: a tortilla shell stuffed with a hash brown patty, eggs, bacon, and cheese.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.