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Taco Bell Owes Its Skyrocketing Sales to the Return of a Fan-Favorite (and Pete Davidson)

The comeback of this one menu item made all the difference.
FACT CHECKED BY Meaghan Cameron

Taco Bell had a great 2022 thanks in part to the return of the Mexican Pizza and Pete Davidson's role as its breakfast spokesperson.

Yum Brands, Taco Bell's parent company, reported this week that the fast-food brand's U.S. same-store sales jumped up by 11% during Q4 of 2022. The 'don't call it a comeback' success of the Mexican Pizza was definitely a big part of those increased sales, but it was just one of many positive developments Taco Bell enjoyed last year. For the entirety of 2022, Taco Bell saw its same-store sales increase by 8% domestically and 7% internationally.

Another major bright spot for the Mexican brand late last year was its breakfast division, with AM transactions increasing by 9% in Q4. Taco Bell had earmarked its breakfast menu as a problem area, and launched an ambitious 'apology campaign' led by comedian and actor Pete Davidson in September.

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The Return of the Mexican Pizza

taco bell new Triple Crunch Mexican Pizza
Courtesy of Taco Bell

It may seem like a clash of culinary cultures at first, but Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza was clearly missed. The Mexican fast-food chain permanently brought this beloved menu item back last September, and sold 45 million pizzas in just the last four months of 2022!

While a "Mexican pizza" can refer to a variety of different dishes, Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza is more like a taco shaped like a pizza. Featuring seasoned beef and refried beans placed between two pizza-shaped shells, hungry customers will also find Mexican Pizza sauce, a three-cheese blend, and chopped tomatoes on top.

The Pete Davidson Effect

pete davidson taco bell ad
Courtesy of Taco Bell

In a series of commercials and promotional events last fall, Davidson let viewers know that Taco Bell probably "went a bit crazy with breakfast" and would be prioritizing "comfort and familiarity" moving forward. Yum Brands CEO David Gibbs attributed much of the breakfast menu's recent success to Taco Bell's collaboration with the popular comedian, as well as a renewed emphasis on classic AM menu items like the Breakfast Crunchwrap.

Mr. Gibbs also mentioned during Yum's Q4 earnings call that company margins (ratio of profits to revenue) at Taco Bell remained flat last year in spite of "industry-wide cost pressures."

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Looking Ahead to 2023

Looking ahead to 2023, Taco Bell is already in the midst of more and more Mexican Pizza promotions. A select group of "Taco Bell superfans" will be getting a "Big A** Mexican Pizza" delivered to them in Glendale, Arizona—the home of this year's Super Bowl. Unfortunately, this promotion isn't available nationwide, as recipients were pre-selected via the Taco Bell app.

Luckily, Taco Bell is offering a free, regular-sized Mexican Pizza to anyone who places a $20 minimum order on the Taco Bell delivery app over Super Bowl weekend (2/11-2/12).

The fast food brand also began experimenting with new Mexican Pizza flavors late last year across select locations in Nebraska and Oklahoma: The Triple Crunch Mexican Pizza and the Cheesy Jalapeño Mexican Pizza.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more about John