The Biggest Flops In Taco Bell's History

Taco Bell's menu is cheap and extensive... and it's possibly extensive because it's cheap. To keep people coming back for more, low-cost fast-food restaurants like Taco Bell can't just offer a basic taco and a bean and cheese burrito — they have to use gimmicks and try new things in an effort to sell even more 99 cent tacos. Sometimes, these experiments work and you end up with the beauty that is a Taco Bell chalupa. But other times these experiments flame out in a blaze of glory. 

Of course, with annual additions of new menu items, limited-time seasonal releases, and the tried-and-true tacos and burritos that customers have come to depend on, it's easy to lose sight of products that were there one moment but practically disappeared into the ether the next. So if you're racking your brain trying to remember if a product you once loved (or hated!) got the ax, you can rest your brain. Lots of menu items come and go, but these are some of Taco Bell's all-time biggest food flops. 

The waffle taco from Taco Bell

Clearly, Taco Bell is known for making inexpensive and fast Mexican food. And Mexican food means tacos, right? So, in an effort to jazz up the fast-food restaurant's breakfast menu (because "normal" breakfast tacos and burritos just aren't good enough?), in 2014, Taco Bell introduced the waffle taco. 

Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. A waffle folded into a taco-like shape, then filled with sausage and scrambled eggs, with a packet of syrup on the side that you can choose to drizzle over the top. According to an article in Thrillist, the result was surprisingly delicious, and it was popular in its test market in Orange County, California. Unfortunately, though, this sticky attempt at getting more people to buy breakfast at Taco Bell wasn't the draw the company had hoped, and according to Business Insider, it was pulled from the stores just a year after it had been introduced nationwide. 

Taco Bell's biscuit taco

In 2015, right on the heels of its waffle taco flop, Taco Bell set out to test a new breakfast invention, the biscuit taco. To be fair, this couldn't have taken much thought — it was almost an exact replica of the waffle taco, but with a taco-shaped biscuit to hold the eggs and breakfast meats in place, instead of a waffle (it also offered a few different options for breakfast meats, like fried chicken with a honey jalapeno sauce). 

According to an article on NBC San Diego, Taco Bell Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt shared that the hope was to once again reignite the interest in Taco Bell's breakfast and to compete more closely with McDonald's. Apparently, Taco Bell did see an initial bump in customer attention after introducing the waffle taco, but that initial interest fizzled out quickly. With the introduction of the biscuit taco, Taco Bell execs hoped to garner interest once again. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to last, and like the waffle taco, it got cut from the menu within roughly a year.

The black jack taco from Taco Bell

According to an article published on Entrepreneur, Taco Bell's Black Jack Taco was introduced as a limited-time offer in 2009, released in October to coincide with Halloween. Obviously, the taco was a gimmick, but not a very good one. The Black Jack Taco itself was more-or-less a basic taco (featuring Taco Bell beef, Baja sauce, lettuce, and cheese) encased in a black-colored taco shell. So really, the gimmick was food coloring. And according to information on Fandom, the food coloring had an unfortunate side effect — it apparently turned customer's stool green. (Whoops.)

Of course, the taco was released as a special, seasonal option, so it wasn't meant to be added to the permanent menu. That said, successful limited-time offers are usually reintroduced in subsequent years (think about the popularity of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, for example), giving customers something to look forward to. Clearly, the Black Jack Taco wasn't the successful Halloween special Taco Bell was hoping for — when it was pulled from the menu in 2009, it disappeared like a ghost and has never been seen again. 

Taco Bell's fully loaded nachos

Sometimes the best-tasting menu items end up flopping, not because the people who try them don't like them, but because not enough people try them, and restaurants have to make way for new or different marketing attempts. That's certainly the case of Taco Bell's Fully Loaded Nachos. This part-nachos, part-taco salad concoction came loaded to the brim with beef, beans, cheese sauce, shredded cheese blend, sour cream, chips, guacamole, tortilla strips, and salsa, all served within an edible taco-shell bowl. According to Chowhound, fans raved about how big the nachos were, and what a great deal it was for what was served. Unfortunately, the menu item lasted for just one year (introduced as two, limited-time stints) in 2008 and 2009. 

If you're hoping the Fully Loaded Nachos will be brought back at some point in the future, it's probably time to stop dreaming. That said, an article on Thrillist points out you can re-create them by customizing a Fiesta Taco Salad with a bunch of other ingredients. The details are a bit involved and could include as many as eight up-charges, so it may not ultimately be worth the effort. You might want to just cut your losses and just order a Nachos Supreme. 

The Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme

At about the same time as Taco Bell was introducing (and nixing) its Fully Loaded Nachos and Jack Black Tacos, they also quietly removed a fan favorite from their menu — the Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme. According to Entrepreneur, this spicy chicken version of the brand's Crunchwraps lasted from 2006 to 2009, so it wasn't an outright flop, but it's not clear if it was kept on the menu for three years just because the other (still available) Crunchwrap Supreme was (and still is) doing well. 

Sadly for the fans who created the "Bring back the Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme" Facebook group (and continued to post to the group for six years following the company's decision — last posting in May 2015), and the fan who called corporate headquarters to beg for the item to be brought back, there's been no such movement by Taco Bell. Which, considering the Facebook group only has 26 total members, could be telling about the actual popularity of this hand-held spicy chicken meal. 

Taco Bell's seafood salad

Yeah, so Taco Bell isn't exactly known for their seafood fare, so why the brand thought that a "seafood salad" would be a good idea in the late '80s is really beyond understanding. But, they did. The thing is, the seafood salad never even looked appealing. It was topped with shrimp, white fish, and snow crab, along with other veggies, and served in an edible taco bowl. 

According to an article posted on Cheapism, Taco Bell had hoped the salad would compete with McDonald's newly-released Filet-O-Fish (the commercial for the salad is full of snark, asking why anyone would want to order fish that looked like a burger). But, aside from the odd choice in fare (truly, why not add fish tacos to the menu — this shouldn't have been rocket science), the salad was quickly pulled. Could it's demise possibly have been hastened after reports of food poisoning? We wouldn't be too surprised.  

Border Bell restaurants

It's a little tricky to track down information on the very short-lived sister-chain of "upscale" Taco Bell restaurants known as Border Bell. And it's tricky to find information because the restaurants were such a spectacular flop. 

According to Muy! Companies, in 1997, PepsiCo (which owned Taco Bell at the time), experimented with a "fresh grill" restaurant concept, opening a Border Bell in Mountain View, California. This restaurant offered a variety of options from the standard Taco Bell menu but took things further by offering more Mexican-inspired fare that were popular at a different PepsiCo restaurant, Chevys Fresh Mex restaurants. 

So think about that — Border Bell was a restaurant that was part fast-food Taco Bell, and part knockoff Chevys Fresh Mex restaurant. Needless to say, customers didn't bite, and (also in 1997), Border Bell closed and was converted into a Taco Bell. Because Taco Bell restaurants are actually popular. 

Taco Bell's B.L.T Soft Taco

B.L.T sandwiches are delicious — of course, they are — how can you go wrong with bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes, with a spread of mayonnaise layered between two slices of hearty bread? It's practically a summertime staple. But those same ingredients, topped with shredded cheese (and with ranch instead of mayonnaise — thank heavens for small blessings), folded up in a soft taco shell? It's somehow less appealing, especially when it's being served at a Mexican fast-food restaurant. 

And yet, in 1995 as part of its Sizzlin' Bacon menu, Taco Bell released just such a soft taco. It, along with the other items on the Sizzlin' Bacon menu — the Bacon Cheeseburger Burrito and the Chicken Club Burrito — all flopped, and according to So Yummy, the special menu was completely nixed by the next year. According to an article on Chowhound, the failure (aside from the misguided effort to serve remixed-sandwiches at Taco Bell), came down to customer complaints about undercooked and overcooked bacon. Apparently, the restaurant may have mastered a mean shredded chicken, but getting bacon just right seems to be out of its wheelhouse. 

Taco bell's naked egg taco

For whatever reason, Taco Bell execs cannot seem to learn their lesson about introducing "taco-like shells" to the breakfast menu. These experiments in using other foods (see: waffle tacos and biscuit tacos, for example) in place of an actual taco shell never end well. But according to So Yummy, Taco Bell tried it again in 2017, this time using an egg — an egg — as the shell. Just... what?!

On the one hand, okay, Taco Bell may have been trying to get in on the high-protein, low-carb, "ditch all-things grain" train (which doesn't make a lot of sense, given that these "tacos" came stuffed with fried potatoes, but, that's a different issue). But on the other hand, a weird, unnaturally white and yellow shell-shaped egg is not exactly appealing to look at. And according to So Yummy, it was greasy, hard to hold, and lacked the fresh flavor of a real fried egg. 

But after its initial, limited edition run in 2017, it was actually brought back briefly in 2018. Possibly due to the very polarized reactions from food critics and fans. Take, for instance, My Recipe's Extra Crispy blog which gave the Taco Bell Naked Egg Taco credit for being both the best fast-food breakfast of 2017 and the worst fast-food breakfast of 2017. Ultimately, though, its odd, Instagram-worthy look couldn't make up for sales, and it hasn't been back on the menu since 2018. 

The French toast chalupa at Taco Bell

Almost every year, Taco Bell execs prove yet again that they just can't resist ruining breakfast. Okay, ruining might be a bit harsh, but seriously. After the breakfast "taco" debacles of 2014, 2015, and 2017 (waffle, biscuit, and egg, respectively), yet again in 2018, Taco Bell test-drove another breakfast concept — the French toast chalupa. 

Maybe they thought if they called it a chalupa instead of a taco, it would be better received? It's truly not clear what these decision-makers are thinking. Regardless, according to Eater, in April of 2018, customers in Dayton, Ohio could test-drive the new concoction, which consisted of a french toast "taco shell" stuffed with scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage. And of course, like the waffle taco, it came with a side of syrup for drizzling or dipping. 

Unlike some of Taco Bell's other failed breakfast options, the French toast taco never even made it past the testing phase. According to an article written on So Yummy in August 2018, it just never made the cut. 

The firecracker burrito from Taco Bell

In probably the most gimmicky product release of all time, Taco Bell thought it would be a good idea to offer a burrito featuring a spicy version of the "pops in your mouth" substance found in the candy Pop Rocks. Of course, Taco Bell didn't use Pop Rocks themselves, but rather, a packet of flavored "popping crystals" that customers could dump into the innards of their burritos before taking a bite, only to be met with a resulting "firecracker" in their mouth. 

It's laughable, right? Sure, it seems like an idea that any 12-year-old kid would like to try once, but if Taco Bell had high hopes that this would be a lasting menu item, it seems like a decision that was made while under the influence of... something. As an article on So Yummy pointed out in 2018, the product had a brief run in 2017, but it disappeared after its limited-time release, never to return again. 

Taco Bell's naked chicken chips

Once again, it's unclear what, exactly Taco Bell execs were thinking when they added Naked Chicken Chips to their menu. These "chips" are basically thinner, triangle-shaped chicken nuggets, that came with a side of nacho cheese dipping sauce, or came topped with sauce and other items, like jalapenos. 

To be fair, these chicken chips are not a terrible fast food menu item, in general, but they're also not exactly "on brand" for Taco Bell. Chicken nugget-like products are generally better suited for fast-food chicken joints, like Chick-fil-A, or fast-food burger joints, like McDonald's. Of course, Taco Bell tried to make them with a south of the border flare, hence the cheese and jalapenos, but all-in-all this 2017 release was a dud. Or, as Facebook page Spork & Barrel stated so succinctly, "Naked Chicken Chips from Taco Bell: These are really stupid." 

Of course, some fans balked when they were tossed from the menu, even going so far as to put together a petition to bring them back, but with a measly 1,900 signatures (more or less), it's clear why the menu item failed. It just wasn't popular. 

The chicken club burrito at Taco Bell

Here's the deal: Taco Bell is not a sandwich joint. And yet, inexplicably, the company has tried on several occasions to turn popular sandwiches into burritos, tacos, or chalupas. It doesn't make a lot of sense — Mexican food is good because it's different from typical sandwich fare — everyone knows that if they want a sandwich, they can grab a good one from joints like Subway or Quiznos. 

But, in 1995, Taco Bell released its Chicken Club Burrito, which was basically just a chicken burrito with bacon, ranch, and some lettuce and tomatoes thrown in. Which, sure, those flavors together are always reasonably good, but as an article on So Yummy put it, it's "just not the kind of burrito anyone wants." Ultimately, the burrito lasted on the menu for about a year. And although some Redditors still wax poetic about their nostalgia surrounding this vintage menu item, after more than 20 years, it's highly unlikely it will ever be introduced again. 

Taco Bell's Cheetos burrito

For years, Taco Bell as worked in collaboration with brands like Doritos and Fritos to take their new products to the next level. Largely, these brand collaborations have worked — for instance, according to Daily News, when Taco Bell released its Doritos Locos Tacos in 2012, it sold 100 million of the tacos in 10 weeks, making the Doritos-shell tacos the most popular menu item ever. So why not test the waters again with yet another cheesy, crunchy snack? 

In 2016, Taco Bell tried just that with the release of its Cheetos Burrito. But it was hardly a creative collaboration — it was basically just a standard cheese, rice, and beef burrito with some Cheetos thrown in. And E! Online confirmed in a 2017 article that the concoction never made it past its Cincinnati test market — the Cheetos Burrito was basically dead on arrival.