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Taco Bell, Chipotle Rivals Make Bold Menu Moves

'Tis the season for tacos--and deals from (some) of your favorite Tex-Mex chains

Regardless of which holidays you will and won't be celebrating in the upcoming weeks, there's one aspect of the season that everyone can enjoy: food. Whether it's a big Christmas ham, a gigantic stack of latkes, or Chinese takeout from that amazing spot down the street, this is the time of year we prepare to loosen our belts a little and taste a whole lineup of our favorite tasty treats.

It's a strong sales season for restaurants, too, with everyone out shopping and dreaming of delicious tastes to come. From large chain restaurants to corner coffee houses, there are seasonal treats and deals aplenty. Yum Brands  (YUM) - Get Free Report chain Taco Bell started the giving season early in mid-November by bringing back the Enchirito thanks to the results of a fan vote--one of many ways Taco Bell keeps its customers engaged with its limited-time-offer menu releases.

Coming into December, Taco Bell's menu saw the return of a popular recurring menu item, Nacho Fries. The company took it one step further by introducing the 7-Layer Nacho Fries Burrito. The brand also started testing two new versions of its Mexican Pizza, and it’s even releasing a new Salsa Verde Grilled Chicken Burrito as late in the year as Dec. 22.

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Meanwhile, Chipotle is Business as Usual

Chipotle Mexican Grill  (CMG) - Get Free Report hasn't been much for specials this holiday season. The company did recently run a FIFA World Cup promotion that gave away 5,000 codes for a free entree. But otherwise, Chipotle is doing what it always does--relying on its fresh ingredients and customer rewards program. 

The chain has seen its share of sales dips thanks to the economic climate. But when the brand experimented with lower-cost menu items, customers were rarely dissuaded from ordering their regular favorite. That's because Chipotle doesn't really compete in the same price bracket as other fast food restaurants. Its customers are willing to pay more for fresh, customized food favorites. 

But that isn't going to stop Taco Bell from moving in on one of the Chipotle menu's biggest draws. Earlier this month, Taco Bell announced that it will feature fresh guacamole. Guacamole made with fresh avocado is a labor-intensive process--one that Chipotle could rely on to draw in hungry customers. Taco Bell is offering the addition of fresh guacamole for almost $1 less than Chipotle, which could sway consumers on a budget to choose Taco Bell instead.

Of course, depending on where you live, you may have even more new Tex-Mex menu items to try thanks to a favorite few regional restaurant chains.

New Specials at Torchy's Tacos, Taco Cabana, & Jack In the Box

This month has seen several menu additions that can make your season merry and bright. Austin, Texas-based chain Torchy's Tacos is bringing back the beloved Naughty Santa taco featuring chorizo, grilled shrimp, pickled onions, jack cheese, avocado, chopped cilantro, and poblano sauce. Another Texas-based taco chain, Taco Cabana, recently launched its Double Crunch Pizza, which looks awfully familiar to Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza fans. 

Never one to be left out of the fast food taco spotlight, Jack in the Box  (JACK) - Get Free Report is offering Jack Pack members 2 free tacos with any $1 purchase for one day only.