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Taco Bell to try Mexican market again

IRVINE Calif. Taco Bell has opened its first unit in Mexico in several years as part of a planned expansion south of the border, officials of the chain’s parent, Yum! Brands Inc., said this week.

Yum also said it is looking to develop more Taco Bells in Asia, the Middle East and Europe and to expand sister brands KFC and Pizza Hut in Russia, France and India.

Taco Bell opened several units in Mexico in the early 1990s, but the brand was not well received and the stores closed within a few years. Yum officials said they were re-introducing Taco Bell not as a Mexican food outlet, but as an American quick-service concept that will appeal to younger diners, who represent about half of the Central American countryÕs population.

The menu will include fries, for example, in addition to Taco Bell products sold in the United States, though the brand names may be changed to avoid confusion.

Christophe LeCureuil, director of international public affairs for Yum Restaurants International, noted that the company's 320 KFC and 285 Pizza Hut restaurants in Mexico are very successful.

Earlier this week, Yum reported a year-over-year profit jump of 17 percent for the third quarter ended Sept. 8, largely on the strength of international operations. Domestic same-store sales for Taco Bell decreased 6 percent from the year-ago quarter.

"We believe that Taco Bell can, over time, become as big as our KFC and Pizza Hut business internationally, given its appeal to young people, its dynamic positioning, and its differentiated menu offerings at an affordable price," LeCureuil said.

ATaco Bell unit had a "soft" opening in late September in Monterrey, Mexico, though the official opening is scheduled for Oct. 25. More units are planned for Monterrey and Mexico City.

LeCureuil said it's too early to say how many units may be planned for Mexico.

"Once we have exactly refined the consumer proposition and unit economics, we'll be able to have a franchise proposition which will accelerate our growth at a much faster pace," he said.

The Taco Bell chain, based here, includes about 5,800 locations in the United States and 278 units in Latin America, Europe and Asia.

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