Now that Memphis-style “hot” chicken is no longer a novelty, what are restaurateurs bubbling in oil to generate some buzz?
What else but another little-known regional variation?
Georgia Gold fried chicken, the specialty of its namesake state and South Carolina, is KFC’s latest test item, available at present in only two markets.
It’s also a prime example of mainstream operations—chains and independents—exploring new turf in their quest for menu items that will pull consumers out of their homes.
Here are a few more surprising lures.
A burger and shot in one
Meats flavored with bourbon or other whiskeys are as common in the business today as forks. But Chicken & Sons in Australia is giving the trend an update by incorporating an actual shot, glass and all, into its new burger, the Bourbon Burgel (the latter word a contraction of burger and bagel, the bread used for the sandwich.) The shot glass, filled with a premium bourbon, slips into the hole atop the middle of the dressed burger. A few strips of glazed bacon stand on end in the whiskey as a garnish.
It's not the easiest thing to eat, as the restaurant has acknowledged by posting a how-to video on its Facebook page.
Beer as a fast-food ingredient?
Apparently there’s a global effort underway to get more of alcohol’s flavor into burgers. In Southern California, blogger Matt Zion spotted placards touting a Carl’s Jr. cheeseburger made not only with beer-inspired cheese, but a version labeled Budweiser Beer Cheese.
Zion reported on his popular blog, Wreckless Eating, that he couldn’t taste the beer; but he observed that the cheese, a spread, delivered a strong flavor. Here's his review.
Chicken-filled pretzel rings
A beer might go well with White Castle’s newest limited-time product: rings of white-meat chicken coated in a crunchy pretzel crust. The option is a riff on the slider chain’s Chicken Rings.
The new Pretzel Chicken Rings are priced at $4.99 for a bag of 20.
BJ’s monkey bread dessert
Like White Castle, BJ’s casual-dining chain gave one of its signatures a unique twist. The brand is known for its Pizookie, a cookie-like pizza baked in its own tin and offered as a dessert.
The concept is playing off that staple with a new Monkey Bread Pizookie, made like a monkey bread coffee cake, right down to the chewy consistency and sticky coating. The new item has generated enough orders for CEO Greg Trojan to cite it as the reason for an increase in dessert sales.
Georgia Gold chicken
KFCs in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Mobile, Ala., are offering the chain’s new Georgia Gold bone-in and boneless fried chicken until Sept. 4 in what the chain describes as a test.
The point of difference from other varieties of fried chicken, according to the chain, is the incorporation of a honey mustard barbecue flavor. It’s used in KFC’s Extra Crispy fried chicken and chicken fingers.
"We purposely paired the traditional southern market of Mobile with the northern mentality of Pittsburgh to determine how guests with different regional taste buds would take to Georgia Gold," said Kevin Hochman, CMO of KFC’s domestic operations. "After numerous trials, we are confident we got it right."
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.