Chain restaurant menus evolve constantly, with new dishes being added and old favorites getting phased out or reformulated. Today’s offerings at McDonalds, IHOP, Applebee’s, or wherever, will be at least slightly — and perhaps substantially — different from those of ten years ago.
Often chains roll out new items experimentally, sometimes in a handful of locations, sometimes nationwide; if they fly (out the door), they earn a permanent place on the menu. Chains also introduce dishes (or drinks) with a seasonal flavor, given a built-in lifespan — at least until next year. (There are also always a number of secret off-the-menu items to order at your favorite chains.)
At regular intervals, 24/7 Tempo reviews the Menu Tracker, a column published several times a month by Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), a leading national restaurant trade publication. In it, 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.
Based on the most recent appearances of the column, we’ve assembled a list of new offerings from some 16 chains — from Caribou Coffee to Baskin-Robbins, Fatburger to Panera, giving preference to those that are the best-known around the country. These include some of the most successful restaurant chains in America.
As is usually the case with these lists, chicken proves enduringly popular: A quarter of the entries are based on it (there’s also one plant-based chicken substitute). Seasonal ingredients — pumpkin and pecan pie — show up too, with more such entries certainly on the way over the next few months.