Taco Bell goes gourmet this summer

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(WTVR) – Taco Bell is often used to satisfy late night cravings but now the chain is announcing plans for more upscale options.

The fast food chain said Wednesday it plans an early July rollout of a menu addition created by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia for its nearly 5,600 U.S. restaurants. New items feature such ingredients as black beans, cilantro rice, citrus- and herb-marinated chicken and cilantro dressing.

The introduction of items that Taco Bell executive Brian Niccol described as “gourmet Mexican,” is a venture onto the turf of casual-dining chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Qdoba Mexican Grill known for higher-quality ingredients.

Niccol credits Garcia, who will appear on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” show this summer, as the force behind the Cantina Bell menu, that the chain expects to eventually expand.

The new additions go nationwide on July 5 and while they may take a bigger bite out of your wallet, the portions are also bigger than the chain’s regular burritos.

Niccol acknowledged that the push for higher quality will draw some skepticism. So the chain said it will refund customers or offer them replacement items if they don’t like the new Cantina Bell dishes. The refund or replacement is a long-standing company policy, but now the chain is publicizing it.

Taco Bell accounts for about 60 percent of U.S. profit for Louisville-based Yum Brands Inc., whose chains also include KFC and Pizza Hut.

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