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Yum's Taco Bell Appears Ready to Bring Back Mexican Pizza

The popular item was removed during a 2020 menu revamp designed to simplify its offerings during the pandemic and eliminate packaging waste.

Yum! Brands'  (YUM) - Get Yum! Brands, Inc. Report Taco Bell disappointed a lot of its loyal customers when it removed the popular Mexican Pizza from its menu in September 2020. 

At the time, the company cited a number of reasons including a desire to deliver "a faster and more seamless restaurant experience than ever before," according to a news release.

The company also pointed out that eliminating Mexican Pizza also helped Taco Bell meet its goal "to leave a lighter footprint on our planet. Currently, Mexican Pizza packaging accounts for over 7 million pounds of paperboard material per year in the U.S."

Streamlining the menu made sense during the height of the pandemic when dining rooms were closed and orders moved to delivery and drive-through. And of course, few would argue with a fast-food chain trying to eliminate packaging waste. 

But neither of those reasons offered much comfort for Mexican Pizza fans.

Now, a media report from Mashed.com and some hints on Taco Bell's own website suggest that the Mexican Pizza may make its triumphant return.

Call it the McRib Effect

Taking a popular fast-food item off the menu and then bringing it back has long been a popular tactic, McDonald's (MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report has regularly done this with its McRib, to great success.

"McDonald’s only keeps the McRib around for a short while as a way to keep people coming back for it," FoodBeast reported. 

"It’s extremely similar to what Burger King  (QSR) - Get Restaurant Brands International Inc Report did with their Mac n’ Cheetos.  (PEP) - Get PepsiCo, Inc. Report After a widely successful initial limited-time release, customers begged for its return. Every time Burger King brought it back, social media would go off as everyone got hyped about Mac n’ Cheetos returning."

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Basically, absence makes the heart -- or in this case, the appetite -- grow fonder. It also makes the media world take notice, generating publicity when the item leaves the menu and when it comes back.

A variety of fast-food chains use this tactic not only to engage the media but to bring back lapsed customers and encourage regulars to spend more.

Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report, for example, has its recurring limited-time offers that come back around the same time each year, like the Pumpkin Spice Latte and pop-up offers that come up at unexpected times like the Unicorn Frappuccino.

Welcome Back, Mexican Pizza

Taco Bell has not confirmed the return of Mexican Pizza, but in addition to the Mashed report, the chain has updated the item's page on its website.  

The page, which says the item is "not currently available," offers a variety of new customization options. These include the ability to swap the pizza's signature ground beef for chicken, steak, or a vegetarian version. The original Mexican Pizza has long been a popular choice for vegetarians who could order the item without meat.

The fast-food giant also has an essay on its website, under the Mexican Pizza ordering options, that explains its origins. Taco Bell lays out how the Mexican Pizza was "was created with some peace."

One clear example of cultural companionship at work is the Mexican Pizza. Two delicioso cuisines with a dash of peaceful engagement created an even more delicioso product. Without peace, there would be no Mexican Pizza. And who wants to live in a world with no Mexican Pizza? Spoiler alert, but the answer is no one. That’s like asking someone if they want free money and the person says no. See, it would never happen. Or offering to give someone a ride to the airport during rush hour and the person politely declines.

Taco Bell further describes Mexican Pizza as "a delicious love child of Mexican and Italian cuisine." 

That may be a stretch, but dropping the pizza from the menu last year made sense at the time and it set the company up to both delight fans of the product and receive a bunch of free publicity, both in the leadup to bringing Mexican Pizza back and when it actually announces it.