Will Cantina Bell Kill Chipotle?

Chipotle stock is falling on the news of a big David Einhorn short position that he rationalizes in terms of increased competition from Taco Bell.

I don’t know that I agree with that financial analysis, but Taco Bell’s upscale repositioning with the Cantina Bell sub-brand in order to better-compete with surging Chipotle is my favorite example of competition leading to quality improvements and dynamism in an oft-neglected sector.

“Gourmet” is a big overstatement, but Cantina Bell food—like Chipotle—is indeed better than what Taco Bell had before. Chipotle’s proven that there’s a market for higher-quality pseudo-Mexican fast food in the United States, but fortunately like many valuable innovations you can’t patent this idea and Taco Bell and other competitors are able to imitate it and push the overall quality of American dining options up.