October 12th marked Taco Bell’s debut in Eastern Europe, when long lines formed at the new restaurant in Baneasa Shopping City. We all knew it would be popular, but how long will this success last?
In an attempt to answer this question, we’ll start by looking at the authenticity of the restaurant chain. This is best summed up in the following Buzzfeed video, where men and women of Mexican descent politely disregard the food that’s been presented as their “native cuisine.”
Some of the phrases that best summarize this video include “it doesn’t convince me,” “it’s not authentic,” and “it’s nothing like…”
The most frequent observation surprisingly has a positive connotation, at least at its surface and that is “good flavor.” Yet, if we further analyze this remark and the context or circumstances under which it is made, it becomes clear that the sensation zestfully described by one of the women as “an explosion of flavor!” may be the result of artificial flavoring and unusual combinations.
Although Taco Bell is upfront with the ingredients they use, we don’t think the vaqueros you see in old westerns are often indulged in the “Cheesy Bacon Fries Burrito.”
The lack of authenticity that is recognized in the video is also validated by the fact that there are currently no Taco Bell locations in Mexico. This is surprising, given that as of 2016, Taco Bell had 6,604 locations in 22 countries worldwide.
In spite of this, Taco Bell seems to have successfully stolen the spotlight from the more authentic local restaurants inspired by Mexican cuisine. These include Taqueria with one location in the Promenada Mall, and the Gourmet Street Food Truck which makes an appearance every weekend in a different location in Bucharest. Our beloved Blue Margarita and El Torino fall under the same list.
The Gourmet Street Food Truck sells a variety of burgers aside from their signature Mexican dishes, while Taqueria focuses solely on replicating the staples of the cuisine. The two seem to put much more emphasis on the quality and freshness of food and its authenticity to traditional Mexican ingredients. These represent the Chipotle of the Mexican food market in Romania.
On the other hand, Taco Bell advertises hardy meals that are typical of fast food chains. The way in which they advertise food items is reminiscent of the methods used by Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, and many other notable U.S. founded fast food chains that have gone global. Yet, there is something much more grandiose and extreme in the way Taco Bell makes items look as appetizing and attractive as possible. They are the epitome of the Tex-Mex cuisine that is so new and intriguing to Romanians.
The appeal of Taco Bell lies in its Western approach to Mexican cuisine: fast, filling, and flavorful food at an affordable price.
With all this being said, will we soon go back to our more authentic alternatives to Mexican food or perhaps rekindle our fondness and fidelity to our classic and more familiar fast food chains? Whether Taco Bell will be able to replace Romania’s undying love for McDonald’s and KFC is questionable. Is it possible that the demand for Taco Bell reaches the point where people with too much time on their hands begin selling spots in line? Will it dominate all fast food chains ever, as predicted in the movie Demolition Man starring Sylvester Stallone? Only time will tell.