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Ride-sharing companies already helped create an entirely new service industry. Now Lyft is seeking to innovate in this market yet again, promising not only safe and convenient rides but also snacks for hungry customers. In an early, limited market test with Taco Bell, Lyft will add a “Taco Mode” to its app that enables consumers to order a ride that includes a stop at the nearest outlet of the fast-food restaurant chain. On their way to the passenger’s destination, the driver will swing through the drive-through, obtain the selected items, and pass them to the back seat.

In the initial tests, the Taco Mode version of the app will feature taco-related images. Cars eligible to provide the service also will sport Taco Bell logos and carry menus with them. The service will be available between 9:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.—prime times for late night revelers to be craving a snack after an evening out, and also to be needing a safe way home.

Taco Bell is not paying Lyft for these marketing elements. Rather, both brands see the experiment as a potential means to differentiate their offers in the market. If faced with the choice between Uber and Lyft, a hungry passenger might be swayed to select the latter if it means easy access to a burrito and drink. If in a Lyft with a Taco Bell menu on hand, the rider is likely to embrace that fast food option over competitive choices.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that such deliveries already occur through informal agreements between drivers and passengers. Funny social media accounts detail interactions between friendly drivers and hungry (often inebriated) passengers who share a fast food feast in the car. Lyft has not set any policies for its drivers regarding whether they must or should obtain food for riders. While some of them clearly are happy to provide the extra service to passengers, others worry about the risks involved, including a messy car that smells like refried beans. If consumers can specify whether they want the option, such as by logging on in Taco Mode, such questions are resolved effectively. That is, customers can self-select into an eating or non-eating Lyft vehicle, increasing the satisfaction of both segments of consumers.

Their satisfaction also seemingly might be enhanced by the experience itself. A convenient ride home is already an appealing option for millions of riders. A safe ride home that also provides a late night snack extends that experience and convenience even further.

Discussion Question:

  1. Do you predict that this test partnership between Lyft and Taco Bell will succeed and spread? Why or why not?

Sources: Sapna Maheshwari, “It’s Late and You’ve Got the Munchies: Lyft and Taco Bell Have an Idea,” The New York Times, July 25, 2017; Jessica Wohl, “Taco Bell and Lyft Test a Way to Handle Late Night Cravings Together,” Advertising Age, July 25, 2017