In Focus
FRANCHISING | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Taco Bell “just getting started” on APAC expansion, says their int'l president

The global brand currently has 67 sites in the aforementioned region.

Following their well-received franchises across Asia-Pacific, Taco Bell international president Liz Williams offers no signs of any hesitation in their plans for further expansion in the multi-cultural region.

“There's so much opportunity in the Asian markets and so we're just getting started in Asia. Southeast Asia is a huge opportunity for us. India and China alone, we can do so much in those markets,” Williams remarked in an exclusive interview with QSR Media.

Assessing Taco Bell’s standing in APAC compared to other markets, Williams considers the popular, youthful brand as still “new” compared to local competitors.

“In the markets we’re in, I think we’re doing great. I think we’ve got consumers that really love the brand, that are coming back [and] are asking when [is Taco Bell] going to build one [site] closer to them. I think we're a new brand versus a lot of our competitors in the local market. We’ve just begun; we have our basic menu but we haven’t brought all of our cult icons and our innovations – there’s a lot we can do there,” she said.

Williams explains that the U.S.-based brand spends a “huge amount of time, love, resource and innovation” at home but says that they need regional support to quicken commercialisation and marketing. “Locally we encourage our regional teams, where appropriate, to bring some local innovation that fits the local markets”. she added.

Similar to their menu innovations, Taco Bell also personalises their infrastructure and building design to cater to their local markets. Williams cited an award-winning building design of a Taco Bell in Shanghai, China that was a mixture of modern and hints of Chinese culture.

“We do it in all markets. There are certain aspects of our restaurant that we’ll build where you’ll walk in and go ‘Yeah, I’m in Taco Bell. I feel like I’m in a Taco Bell.’ There are some local elements that we’ll weave in – oftentimes it will be artwork from a local artist might do [like] a mural in a wall.”

Flexibility in options and easier access
Domestically and internationally, Williams observes that similar trends in terms of flexibility in food options and access are going a long way for a brand.

“People want choice, and flexible options. Today, I might want to be vegetarian. Tomorrow, I won’t be one. There’s also the trend of this ‘all access’ to your brand at ‘all times’. They want to use technology to be part of the brand. Delivery is a huge opportunity in terms of consumers. When they can’t go to the restaurants or to the drive-thru they wonder if someone can deliver it to them. In Asia, delivery is on fire because the traffic in some cities is maddening. Motorbike delivery can get the food to the customer faster.”

The brand sees potential in their international market for a thousand units over the next couple of years. But despite their master plan of global aggressive expansion, Williams says they are in no rush – emphasising the need for proper partnerships.

“[We’re] taking time to go to the market in the Taco Bell way. It’s easy to do that because you see so much opportunity. Taking the time to find the right partner, getting the right site are really important, and getting the scale. It takes time to go into the market and get the partnership and to have that scale.”

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