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The Margin: Taco Bell ran out of Mexican Pizza already — here’s when it’s coming back

When Taco Bell
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brought back its “Mexican Pizza” in May after a two-year absence, fans rejoiced. But now it appears those hungry for this mashup menu item are out of luck once again.

Two months later, Mexican Pizza is now generally impossible to find at the chain’s restaurants. Taco Bell has acknowledged the issue on its website, saying it was overwhelmed by the sudden demand for the viral item that sandwiched seasoned beef and refried beans between two fried tortillas, with cheese, sauce and diced tomatoes placed on the top tortilla to resemble a pizza.

“Our restaurant teams trained weeks for what we knew would be a big return. We just didn’t realize how big,” the chain said, noting that “one fan’s order included 180 Mexican Pizzas.” In all, Taco Bell said demand was seven times greater than when its Mexican Pizza last appeared on its menu.

Related: Klondike says cutting Choco Taco was a ‘very tough decision’

The plan now is for the item to make its return — or rather, its re-return — by this fall, Taco Bell said on its website: “We’re working diligently with our restaurants and suppliers to get more back in the hands and stomachs of our biggest fans.” (Taco Bell didn’t respond immediately to a MarketWatch request for additional comment.)

Needless to say, Taco Bell fans are eager for the day when they can order the Mexican Pizza again.

“So we just gonna let Taco Bell get away with teasing us bringing the Mexican pizza back for 2.5 seconds then taking it back again?” tweeted another.

Some Taco Bell fans are speculating this shortage is just a marketing ploy — in effect, a way for the chain to generate a second round of buzz for the menu item. And a few consumers linked the Mexican Pizza’s disappearance from menus with Klondike discontinuing the Choco Taco (which was also briefly sold at Taco Bell earlier this year.)

Stephen Zagor, a New York-based restaurant consultant who teaches at Columbia University’s business school, said the marketing ploy theory is a distinct possibility, noting that companies often use the scarcity tactic to build demand.

“It’s a no-lose marketing campaign” for Taco Bell, he said.

But Mark Kalinowski, a veteran analyst of fast-food chains, said he thinks Taco Bell was truly blindsided. He likens the situation to what happened when Popeyes’ chicken sandwich became a sensation in 2019 and the chain couldn’t keep up with the demand.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that this was all some grand scheme,” Kalinowski said of the Taco Bell situation. He added that the chain seemingly uses a unique tortilla-style base to make the pizza — meaning it can’t simply create the item using another product, such as a burrito wrapper, that it might already have in stock.

Taco Bell also answered this question directly on its Mexican Pizza FAQ. “No,” it wrote in response to the question, “Was this whole thing planned Was this a limited time offer?”

Not that every Taco Bell fan quite sees it that way, however.

Kalinowski said it’s only natural that the Mexican Pizza took off. It’s an item tailor-made for Taco Bell’s youth-oriented market, which tends to be zealous by nature. “It’s a very passionate fan base,” he said.

Indeed, that base rallied for the Mexican Pizza’s return as soon as it was taken off the menu in 2020. Among the most vocal of those fans was the artist Doja Cat, who has gotten credit for convincing the chain to reverse its decision. Doja Cat has since signed on with Taco Bell to promote the brand.

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