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I recently found a recipe for homemade Crunchwrap Supremes. Spoiler alert: there are several more tortillas involved than you’d think. Although delicious, these Crunchwraps are surprisingly labor-intensive, so I still hit up Taco Bell whenever I’m crunched for time. (You’re welcome.) Thanks to a new popup in my area, I might now have a third option. Founded by The Office star BJ Novak, Chain promises to replicate fast food favorites with high-quality ingredients. And rather than feel threatened by the competition, Taco Bell wants the two brands to collaborate.
On July 27, Chain’s official Twitter account announced that “Fire Tier” members of Taco Bell’s rewards program would get to try Chain’s twist on the Crunchwrap Supreme—the Wagyu Beef Cruncho Perfecto. Who suggested the collab? Taco Bell chef Rene Pisciotti, who was impressed by Chain chef Tim Hollingsworth’s Crunchwrap-inspired delight.
— chain (@eatatchain) August 2, 2022
“Tim walked me through it ingredient by ingredient and how they were assembling it,” Pisciotti said to Food & Wine. “It’s a pretty magical thing that they’ve done.” So magical, in fact, that Taco Bell is already promoting the Cruncho Perfecto on its social channels and teasing future events with Chain.
This collaboration will no doubt be a big win for Chain, which has been slowly gaining momentum since its first popup in March 2021. But what, pray tell, does the partnership offer Taco Bell?
After all, Chain seems like a parody more than an homage at first glance, a wink-wink to adult consumers who might feel self-conscious about enjoying fast food. Don’t want to admit that you, a Bona Fide Grown-Up, still throw down on blooming onions and potato skins? Enjoy these elevated versions instead! Disdain the $5 combo meals of your youth? Prove your superiority by purchasing fancy tenders and fries for $20!
But Chain, it seems, was truly born out of love. Novak waxed poetic back in 2018 about a chain-themed eatery, one that could be snuck into upscale neighborhoods that “only allow one-of-a-kind restaurants.” That way, fast food enthusiasts could break bread (or breadsticks?) alongside more discerning palates. His business aspirations are coming true: celebrities, influencers, and Joe Schmos alike are all over Chain’s Instagram, which is continually teasing the next release.
The success of Chain demonstrates our collective need for nostalgia in a world that changes at breakneck speed. Imitation, after all, is the highest form of flattery, and the Cruncho Perfecto wouldn’t exist if the Crunchwrap wasn’t already Supreme. Time will tell if other actual chain restaurants will clamor for Chain collabs, or whether the “elevated fast food” concept is merely a flash-in-the-pan novelty. Until then, I’ll take my Cruncho Perfecto with a Baja Blast freeze, please.