After a disastrous series of events in 2015, Chipotle has struggled to make a comeback in the fast food sector, while Taco Bell has rolled out innovation after innovation, specifically within the digital space. Niccol (whose nickname is “Foodie Experiences“) didn’t only create food mash-ups like Doritos Locos Tacos and nacho fries, he also added mobile ordering and boosted the brand’s Twitter presence by creating the “Live Mas” hashtag. The takeover could bring a much-needed dash of digital excellence for the brand.
The move will also help Chipotle target Gen Z, which commands about $828 billion in spending power (much of which goes towards food), so it would serve the fast casual outlet well to learn their language. As the first demographic of digital natives, Gen Z’ers are accustomed to communicating through images; success for restaurants therefore hinges on digital discovery over visual platforms like Instagram.
Taco Bell stands out on Instagram, continually posting colorful, saucy images that appeal to the retro-meets-rebellious vibe of its 1.1 million followers. In contrast, Chipotle has less than half as many followers, and a page that could benefit from a blast of personality.
Taco Bell’s digital skills are further evidenced in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Restaurants. The brand established partnerships with XBox and Lyft, collaborated with Doritos and Forever 21, and rolled out successful social media campaigns such as Taco Bell Weddings and the Taco Emoji campaign, both of which set the platform aflame. While Niccol’s reign at Taco Bell has been a success, it remains to be seen if the executive can bring the same spice to Chipotle’s comparatively staid offerings.