This week I reached out for a long lost conquering hero, the 99-cent Beefy Crunchy Burrito, at America's No. 1 Mexican-style drive-through, Taco Bell, with 5,600 restaurants in all 50 states north of the border.
The Beefy Crunchy Burrito was introduced in 2010 as an "LTO" -- biz talk for limited time only. It was a monster hit, but gone in a flash. Late-night drive-through crawlers immediately created a Facebook page and begged for its return. Three million "fans" clamored for the Beefy Crunchy Burrito, and now Taco Bell is answering their plea.
It's back, no bigger or better, but just as cheap. And at 3 a.m., when the bars are closed and eight starving clubbers are piled in the backseat, cheap hits the spot.
Here's the blueprint: Mexican-style seasoned beef, Flamin' Hot Fritos chips, warm nacho cheese, seasoned rice and cool reduced-fat sour cream wrapped snugly in a soft tortilla.
Total calories: 220. Fat grams: 10. Sodium: 230 mg. Carbs: 35. Dietary fiber: 3. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: 99 cents.
The Beefy Crunchy Burrito is what Taco Bell does best -- it fills you up for a little jingle. Three or four of these babies, plus a big Diet Pepsi, and you'll be sleeping them off till morning. Or noon. Or 2 p.m. if it's a late kickoff.
Taco Bell is the master of mixing and matching basic ingredients from the fridge. The Beefy Crunchy Burrito has standard-issue seasoned beef ... and it is beef, don't worry about that. The warm nacho cheese is a familiar favorite and seasoned rice goes with everything. The reduced-fat sour cream chills things out.
The secret to the Beefy Crunch Burrito's success is Flamin' Hot Fritos chips. They put the "crunchy" in the "Beefy Crunchy Burrito," and they add some heat and needed texture. Fritos are a classic side dish, and here Taco Bell is putting them inside the burrito as part of the main deal. It totally works.
Score the return of the Beefy Crunchy Burrito as a victory for social media. The people have spoken, and Taco Bell listened. One might ask, though, if 3 million are squawking, why is the Bell bringing back the Beefy Crunchy Burrito as a limited time only special again? Make it permanent, why don't you?
Don't toy with the people's emotions.
The Beefy Crunchy Burrito is also available in a $3.99 value meal with two Crunchy Tacos and a large soft drink.
Taco Bell, in addition to stretching five ingredients into 100 different menu items, is also the master of switching speeds. Its most recent brainstorm was the Triple Steak Stack, which sold for an unprecedented $4.99 -- just for the sandwich.
Of course, the Triple Steak Stack is a big 'un, and we are talking about steak. But five Beefy Crunchy Burritos will do five times the job as one Triple Steak Stack.
Just crunch the numbers.