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Taco Bell takes aim at McDonald’s with breakfast

New on the menu at Taco Bell is the Waffle Taco. A breakfast menu goes nationwide on March 27.

Taco Bell via Associated Press

New on the menu at Taco Bell is the Waffle Taco. A breakfast menu goes nationwide on March 27.

NEW YORK — Taco Bell is getting ready to launch its breakfast menu March 27, with items such as the A.M. Crunchwrap, designed to appeal to its fan base of younger men. Breakfast will be available until 11 a.m. — a half-hour later than McDonald’s offers Egg McMuffins.

President Brian Niccol said Taco Bell intends to be a ‘‘strong number two.’’

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McDonald’s has long been the fast-food leader in the morning, with its popular sausage biscuits, hotcakes, and other items pulling in roughly 20 percent of the company’s US sales. But the chain has been facing stiffer competition, from Starbucks, Subway and others. On March 4, Starbucks plans to roll out new and revamped breakfast sandwiches.

Last year, an executive with Taco Bell’s parent, Yum Brands, said breakfast accounted for about 4 percent of sales in locations where it was tested. But that was before the chain put its full marketing might behind the menu.

McDonald’s plans to step up marketing of breakfast and may extend breakfast hours.

Taco Bell has been testing and tweaking its menu in a select number of its nearly 6,000 US locations for several months. For the national rollout, its restaurants have hired additional staff and bought new equipment, including for the coffee it plans to start serving for the first time.

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