10 Big Menu Strategies from Top Restaurant Chains

Restaurant Rollout Roundup, November Edition
pizza hut triple treat box

The past four weeks have delivered an onslaught of menu rollouts from restaurants ready to capitalize on the busy, family-centric holiday season. They reflect consumers’ nostalgia for cult brands, our desire to add heat to just about any meal, and brands’ efforts to boost sales before the new year. Read on for 10 recent menu rollouts—and the strategies each represents.  

1. Feeding the family, increasing the check size

Pizza Hut has rolled out a Triple Treat Box for the holiday season. The tri-level box features actual drawers that pull out to reveal the customer’s choice of pizzas, desserts, sides and more. It includes two medium one-topping pizzas, an order of breadsticks or flavor sticks and a Hershey's Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie, all for $19.99.

2. Customization and all things spicy

Dallas-based Pizza Patron is rolling out its “poquito spicy” black bean sauce as an option on all of its pizzas for an additional $1 through the end of the year. It first debuted the red-sauce alternative in September with its Frijolera pizza (black bean sauce topped with cheese, chorizo, ham and bacon), and quickly received customer requests to offer the sauce with other pizzas.

3. Attracting deal seekers beyond the dollar menu

Starting in January, McDonald’s will launch the McPick 2 menu, which will let customers pick two items for $2: a McDouble, a McChicken, small fries and mozzarella sticks. It will be available in U.S. restaurants for a five-week test run starting Jan. 4.

4. Restaurant appetizers get the on-the-go treatment

Busy trying to rev up sales and consumer perception, McDonald’s is also rolling out mozzarella sticks at all of its U.S. stores. The menu item will be available for $1 on the chain’s “Dollar Menu & More” offering.

5. Brand nostalgia and the potential of frozen beverages

Burger King is continuing to rely on quirky limited-time products with the launch of a frozen drink made with Surge, a fluorescent-green soda with a hardcore following despite its limited availability for the past 20 years. The rollout of Frozen Surge follows the soda’s re-introduction in retail outlets.

6. Bring on the heat—and the cheese

Wendy’s is bringing a Latino flavor to its largely Americana menu by testing queso in a number of markets. The test includes a Green Chile Quesoburger with a spicy poblano queso sauce, salsa verde, bacon and red onion, and a Queso Baked Potato topped with the poblano queso sauce and salsa verde.

7. Capitalizing on the street-foods trend

Along with its transition to a new name, Qdoba Mexican Eats has been rolling out a number of new menu additions, including “street tacos,” such as the Two Timer (pulled pork), Bohemian Veg (black beans, corn salsa, salsa verde and guacamole) and the Drunken Yardbird (tequila lime chicken).

8. Satisfying cravings for both sweet and savory

Dunkin’ Donuts took advantage of National Sandwich Day to launch its new Sweet Black Pepper Bacon Breakfast sandwich. It features American cheese, egg and four strips of bacon coated in a brown sugar and black pepper seasoning—all served on a croissant, or as a Wake-Up Wrap with half the serving of eggs and one slice of bacon.

9. Elevating the familiar

Red Robin is bringing to its menu the winning burger from its Best of the Bash contest at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. The Mad Love Burger features a half-pound Black Angus beef patty with melted provolone and Swiss cheeses, a cheddar and parmesan cheese crisp, jalapeño relish, candied bacon, avocado slices, citrus-marinated tomatoes and onions, and shredded romaine served on a toasted ciabatta bun.

10. Boosting check averages

Dessert pizzas are nothing new, but Pie Five Pizza is hoping to put its own spin on things with its new Cinnamon Apple Pie. Available now through Dec. 13, it features a snickerdoodle crust layered with cobbler-spiced apples and topped with a cinnamon streusel crumble.