Thanksgiving (and Other) New Chain Restaurant Menu Items

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One sure sign that Thanksgiving is approaching is the proliferation on fast-food and coffee-shop menus of “pumpkin spice” foods and drinks — a phenomenon sparked by the now-iconic PSL (pumpkin spice latte) introduced by Starbucks in 2003.

But chains herald the fall and winter holidays in other ways as well, rolling out items enhanced with peppermint, maple, cinnamon, cranberry, and other seasonal-appropriate flavors. And this is also the time of year that chains add hearty cold-weather foods to their menus — for instance, massive sandwiches, loaded burritos, and extra-cheesy pizzas. 

Diners aren’t always limited to official menu items, of course. Here are some secret off-the-menu items to order at your favorite chains.

To get an idea of new things a number of well-known chains are putting on their menus this month — sometimes for a limited time, sometimes permanently — 24/7 Tempo reviewed several recent iterations of the Menu Tracker column published regularly by Nation’s Restaurant News, a leading national restaurant trade publication. The column, compiled by NRN’s senior food and beverage editor, Bret Thorn, details new additions to menus at a wide range of chain operations around the U.S. 

Many of the operations on this list are among the most successful restaurant chains in America.

We’ve chosen recent menu additions from some 22 chains, with preference given to the operations that are best-known nationwide. Many kinds of dishes (and four beverages) are included. Chicken, beef, pork, and plant-based proteins appear, as well as a couple of uncommon ingredients: bison and black truffles.

Though a few of the items here seem to be anticipating Christmas, it’s a safe bet that more Christmas-themed offerings will be showing up next month.