KANSAS CITY – Food service operators, both large and small, are changing their menus in an effort to expand their offerings to new day parts and revamp product lineups. Taco Bell is currently all about breakfast, Quiznos is focused on pasta, and Olive Garden and Caribou Coffee are adding options.

March 27 is the day the Taco Bell business unit of Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brand, Inc. opens for breakfast. The move has been rumored for some time, but the chain made it official Feb. 24.

Taco Bell's new breakfast lineup includes Cinnabon bites and the Waffle Taco.

“Taco Bell Breakfast will be one of the brand’s priority initiatives of the year, along with a vigorous development plan to increase accessibility of restaurants and a mobile platform that puts the Taco Bell menu board and payment in customers’ hands,” said Brian Niccol, president of Taco Bell.

The quick-service restaurant’s breakfast menu will include the Waffle Taco, a waffle wrapped around a sausage patty or bacon, scrambled eggs and cheese. The chain will also feature its A.M. Crunchwrap that features scrambled eggs, a hash brown, melted cheese and bacon all wrapped in a tortilla.

Other menu items will include breakfast burritos, Cinnabon Delights, A.M. grilled tacos that feature bacon or sausage, sausage flatbread melts, hash browns, coffee and orange juice.

“Breakfast is the fastest growing day-part in Q.S.R., and after years of the same old thing, we’re confident our breakfast will wake up customers’ morning routine,” said Chris Brandt, chief marketing officer. “Taco Bell will bring them a classic breakfast experience, leading with the Waffle Taco and A.M. Crunchwrap, but also offer a menu of breakfast burritos, tacos and value offerings plus a pipeline of new products to continue waking up breakfast options and connecting with our fans.”

Olive Garden in rebuilding mode

The Italian restaurant chain Olive Garden, Orlando, Fla., is renovating both its lunch and dinner menus with the addition of several new options that focus on customization, portion control and value. Its Cucina Mia selection allows guests to create their own entrée from a selection of six pastas and five sauces. The restaurant chain also is rolling out a small plates portion of the menu that includes eight items. In addition, Olive Garden is adding menu items with fewer than 575 calories.

Olive Garden's new Cucina Mia menu allows customers to create an entrée from six pasta options and five sauces.

For lunch, Olive Garden has developed the “lunch experience” that is designed to allow customers to get a meal quickly. The chain also is rolling out several combination meals.

“Our new menu is designed to give our guests an enhanced experience by giving them new flavors, more variety and everyday value,” said Jay Spenchian, executive vice-president of marketing for Olive Garden. “We're staying true to the fresh, simple Italian food, while creating more ways to delight our guests.”

Adding pasta and pastries

Quiznos, Denver, is adding a pasta platform. The new lineup features such flavors as mac and cheese, spicy sausage marinara, meatballs marinara and chicken pesto.

Quizno's Toasty Pastas platform offers consumers an alternative to sandwiches and salads.

“The new pasta platform enables us to leverage our toasted equity and attract a broader audience using many of our high quality ingredients," said Susan Lintonsmith, chief marketing officer. “The new Toasty Pasta line provides a ‘craveable’ alternative to our premium toasted subs.  It's great for kids and families – at dinner and of course for weekends."

The pasta line features individual portions and has a starting price of $4.99.

Finally, the Caribou Coffee chain, based in Minneapolis, launched a three-phase “fresh food” program this week. The first phase involves the addition of 13 bakery items ranging from muffins, croissants, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, sticky buns and tarts.

Thirteen baked items, from macarons to a mini donut muffin, join the menu at Caribou Coffee.
“At Caribou, we are making a commitment to providing our guests with food that matches the high standards of our coffees, and it starts today with our bakery launch,” said Michele Vig, vice-president of marketing for Caribou Coffee. “Our new bakery assortment is just the first phase of revamping our food in 2014. The second and third phases of food innovation will provide our guests with new hot lunch sandwiches as well as green salads, wraps, fresh fruit and vegetables, snack boxes and healthy menu options.”