Yum or yuck? Cutting edge restaurant menu items

Roberto A Sanchez | E + | Getty Images

If the idea of ​​indulging your sweet tooth with a vanilla ice cream milkshake made with a real slice of apple pie makes you want to stop in your culinary avenues and head to the nearest one. Johnny rockets, well, that’s the point.

Hoping to increase sales and traffic to their restaurants, fast food and fast food operators are innovating on the menu to produce items that deviate from the gastronomic norm.

“The pace of innovation has increased dramatically over the past five years,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a market research company. “Consumer preferences are changing faster, product life cycles are shortening and restaurants are constantly on the lookout for new, innovative flavor profiles.

Many of these items are only offered for a limited time, which encourages customers to buy them while they’re still hot (and available). They are also often intended to attract younger people.

Click ahead to see some of the more exciting innovations from restaurant test kitchens.

—By CNBC’s Katie Little. Follow her on Twitter at @KatieLittle

Posted on May 18, 2013

Taco Bell Nacho Dorito Loco Cheese

Evidence suggests that these new product offerings are often effective in driving sales. Same-store restaurant sales accelerated to 2.9% last month, from 1.3% in March.

“Companies with new products seemed to be skyrocketing, including Taco Bell… and Wendy’s, ”RBC Capital Markets analysts said in a recent memo.

Last quarter, Taco Bell same-store sales increased 6%, in part due to the success of its Doritos Locos Tacos. The item sold so well that the company added a fresh ranch flavor to its original nacho cheese flavor this year.

“We expect to sell approximately 100 million Doritos Locos Tacos in the second quarter, and this continues to be one of the most successful new product launches in our history,” said Richard Carucci, President of Yum Brands.

Pizza Hut Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza

Even the name is a mouthful. Pizza Hut latest pizza has 16 pockets of dough on its outer edge with a blend of five Italian cheeses.

“At Pizza Hut, food innovation is at the center of our brand, and we are working hard to develop new, creative versions of classic pizza,” Kurt Kane, the company’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

This item is the latest addition to the brand’s lactose-rich offerings, after their stuffed crust pizza, ultimate stuffed crust pizza, and cheese bites.

For customers who want even more, additional cheese is available for two dollars more.

Dunkin ‘Donuts Frozen Donut Sandwich

Eating bacon, eggs, and a donut for breakfast isn’t exactly revolutionary. But once you’ve combined them into one sandwich, like Dunkin ‘Donuts has, that’s when people talk (and buy).

Currently only available in a few locations near Boston, the response on Twitter has been mixed so far.

Comedian Jimmy Fallon tweeted, “Dunkin Donuts’ new breakfast sandwich is made with eggs and bacon in a frozen donut. Their new tagline: ‘America is running out of steam on Dunkin’ #fallonmono.”

Burger King BK Rib Sandwich

Burger King’s new rib sandwich will compete with McDonald’s McRib.

Source: Burger King

From May 21, Burger King will offer its alternative to McDonald’s popular McRib sandwich.

Like its future rival, the sandwich will be offered for a limited time, prompting consumers to grab it while it’s hot (and still on the menu) this summer.

Burger King’s latest product launch comes at a time when beef prices are skyrocketing, making other meats like pork and chicken more attractive to companies trying to preserve their margins.

Chili Taco Pizza

When Brinker International Chili’s the unit decided to revamp its menu, it chose to put its own twist on a familiar Italian favorite.

“After 38 years of serving cult dishes like our Baby Back Ribs, customer feedback and preferences tell us now is the time to bring pizzas to Chili’s, but with our signature Southwestern flavor profile. “said Krista Gibson, senior vice president. president of brand strategy for Chili’s Grill & Bar.

True to its brand, the company now offers southwest chicken and taco pizzas in addition to the five cheeses and pepperoni. Chili’s also recently introduced three flavors of flatbread.

Wendy’s Smoked Honey Mustard Flatbread

Best known for its square burgers and Frosty Shakes, Wendy’s decided to shake up its chicken offerings by pairing them with flatbread.

“Consumers want innovative new products, and Wendy’s is getting there by redefining the idea of ​​baked breads in chicken sandwiches,” said Craig Bahner, marketing director for the fast-foot chain. “We provide consumers with superior quality and taste at a traditional QSR price. “

The new sandwiches, which will be offered in two varieties, Asiago Ranch and Smoky Honey Mustard, will be available until the end of May.

Taco Bell Waffle Taco

Taco Bell Waffle Taco

Photo: taco bell

Hoping to gain a foothold in the breakfast market, Taco Bell testing a waffle taco in five California markets. The new item consists of a waffle wrapped around a sausage patty and scrambled eggs, all for 89 cents.

“What’s amazing is that he’s in five stores and has already had 42 million impressions on social media,” said Greg Creed, CEO of Taco Bell. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a product that’s only available in five stores generate so much social buzz.”

In order to stay relevant, restaurants must continue to invest in new and exciting products that generate buzz and word of mouth recommendations, said Technomic’s Tristano.

“Social media tends to drive some of the new trends very quickly, and this new level of communication enables rapid communication and recommendations from one consumer to another,” Tristano said.

Burger King Bacon Sundae

McDonald’s Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder

Earlier this week, McDonald’s has announced that it will replace its Angus Third Pounders with three new Quarter Pounders with less beef. While two varieties, Bacon and Cheese and Deluxe, would remain the same as Angus burgers, the third would be the spicy variety sought after by a younger audience – a Habanero Ranch burger.

“Younger consumers tend to be more engaged in trying out off the beaten track items,” Tristano said. “This has given rise to some exaggerated new items that can be characterized as overly indulgent sizes and fiery hot flavors.”

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