America’s favorite Mexican restaurant is apparently Taco Bell

Taco Bell is America's favorite Mexican restaurant, according to a recent survey. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz).
Taco Bell is America's favorite Mexican restaurant, according to a recent survey. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz).
Published September 11 2018
Updated September 11 2018

And Americaís favorite Mexican restaurant is ....

Taco Bell?

Sure, it sounds like a headline from The Onion, but a new survey from the Harris Poll EquiTrend Study finds that, indeed, Taco Bell beats out the likes of Chipotle, Moeís Southwest Grill, Baja Fresh and Del Taco to win Americaís hearts.

But letís be clear: These are big chain restaurants that donít really compete with any of the great local Mexican places around the country -- including here in the Tampa Bay area.

In fact, our critic recently asked:

Are tacos the new burgers? A slew of new taco-centric places in Tampa Bay makes the case.

And donít forget about our Top 50 restaurants of Tampa Bay.

Anyway ... back to Nachos Bellgrandes.

Harris, which conducted the study of Americaís favorite Mexican restaurant, said itís the first time Taco Bell has won "Brand of the Year" since the study launched 30 years ago.

The study "measures the overall health of a brand by asking consumers questions based on three variables ó familiarity, quality and future consideration. The results are aggregated into a one-number score."

Moeís won the last two years. Chipotle was No. 1 prior to that, but "its standing was severely impacted by various outbreaks of foodborne illnesses," Harris notes. "The fast casual and health-conscious chain experienced a 10.7 point drop in 2016 because of the negative sentiment surrounding the brand."

And give Taco Bell some credit. It has shown signs of innovation in recent years, including breakfast and what Harris calls "creative selections like Mexican Crispy Chicken Pizza and the Naked Egg Taco."

Meanwhile, Taco Bellís launch of Nacho Fries earlier this year "was the most successful product launch in Taco Bellís history," Harris notes.

"Taco Bellís marketing is ubiquitous so it wasnít surprising to me that they came out on top this year. Itís not so much that Moeís or Chipotle are falling off the map. Taco Bell has just been a stronger brand as of late, as demonstrated by the strong familiarity and consideration marks," said Amir Kanpurwala, the director of the survey.

The study is based on a sample of 77,031 U.S. consumers at least 15 years old surveyed online, in English, this year from Jan. 3 to Feb. 15.