Lyft’s new partnership with Taco Bell seems like a weird cross-marketing campaign at first glance, but it could become a model for future tie-ups to come, and a new revenue opportunity for ride-hailing in general. Lyft and the fast food restaurant chain debuted “Taco Mode” today, which allows riders to add on a Taco Bell side trip during their ride with a simple tap within the app.
The tie-up includes other components of an “ultimate Taco Bell experience,” including custom swag and well as a special in-car menu, and free food giveaways. The stated explanation for the partnership on the Taco Bell side, according to a press release, is that already people often ask for a Taco Bell pitstop, especially on late-night rides, but the restaurateur believes there’s a missed opportunity in terms of people who want to ask but aren’t sure if that’s allowed.
Let me say that from personal experience as a youth frequenting bars pre-ride hailing, it’s definitely true that Taco Bell ended up as a frequent destination. But let me also say that this is likely more about giving Lyft a look at a new way to potentially bring on direct marketing opportunities with partners that can help them shore up revenue deficiencies in the primary business model.
Lyft is testing this out at first in a limited pilot – it’s running between July 27 and 29, and then again between August 3 and 5 in Orange County only between 9 PM and 2 AM local time. But the plan is to then “expand Taco Mode into additional markets by the end of the year, with an expected nationwide rollout in 2018.”
Done well, this could be a new business opportunity that helps Lyft bring in additional marketing partners and revenue with a minimum of impact to the core product and ride hailing service. But it’s hard not to imagine a future in which these kinds of deals proliferate to the point where hailing a ride is basically just asking for an onslaught of advertising to be presented to you during idle time – which is exactly what Facebook has become.