When the calendar flips to a new year, consumers traditionally make resolutions to lose weight or at least eat healthier. And restaurants obliged this January, offering up diet-friendly items on menus. But diners also seem to crave comforting fare to help beat the post-holiday slump and winter chill.
Click ahead to see the 10 most craveable limited-time offers at chains through January, as ranked by potential purchasers in Technomic’s Ignite Menu Concept Development survey. (The canvass of 500 consumers for 100 or more LTOs shows which are most craveable based on the item’s name and description. Results are rounded to the nearest whole number.) Items with high craveability scores can indicate an increase in sales, says Lauren Hallow, consumer insights manager for Technomic.
10. Lobster Loaded Mashed Potatoes
The interactive menu description of this dish sounds decadent and abundant: “Load it up! Housemade cheesy garlic sauce loaded with lobster and topped on mashed potatoes.” That wording appealed to 68% of potential purchasers, who called out this item as “craveable.” The LTO was featured on the menu of LongHorn Steakhouse.
9. Bordeaux Burger
A burger with a French accent from Hard Rock Cafe ranked high for craveability with 68% of potential purchasers. The burger’s description conveys chef-inspired, housemade components. It reads, “Our signature steak burger topped with a Bordeaux fig jam, caramelized onions and creamy goat cheese on a freshly toasted bun, served with seasoned fries and chipotle aioli for dipping.” Burgers seem to have infinite appeal, especially when they’re elevated with a flavor twist.
8. Steak and Eggs Hash
Several meaty brunch items showed up on the top 10 list for craveability, including this straightforward Steak and Eggs Hash from First Watch. But its menu description provides more details and enticing adjectives. The dish features seared flank steak, fresh seasoned potatoes, house-roasted mushrooms and onions, mozzarella and fresh baby spinach, topped with two cage-free eggs any style, Parmesan cream and fresh herbs. That motivated 68% of potential purchasers to tag this item craveable.
7. Peppermint Mocha Americano
Indulgent, hot beverages also made it to the most craveable list. Dunkin’s Peppermint Mocha Americano, a classic combo of cool peppermint and rich chocolate, was given a high craveability score by 69% of potential purchasers. The craving for peppermint and chocolate seems to linger after the holiday season has come and gone.
6. Sugar Cookie Latte
This latte from Scooter’s Coffee & Yogurt also taps into holiday flavors with its reference to sugar cookies. The description reinforces holiday memories: “Creamy white mocha and espresso combined with the delectable flavor of cookie butter, then topped with whipped cream and sprinkles.” The seasonal LTO received a craveability score of 69% from potential purchasers.
5. Short Rib Benedict
A meat-lovers brunch item from Silver Diner also got high marks for craveability with 69% of potential purchasers. A main ingredient in this Short Rib Benedict is organic, grass-fed short rib, but the dish also includes several vegetables in its description, such as butternut squash and spinach. Barbecue sauce flavors the meat, while a rich hollandaise coats two cage-free Amish eggs over easy, and home fries complete the plate. The description implies from-scratch preparation and carefully sourced ingredients.
4. Carnitas Breakfast Burrito
Pork is the star of this breakfast plate from First Watch, with carnitas as the meat of choice. The burrito is also stuffed with scrambled cage-free eggs, fresh seasoned potatoes, black beans, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses and fresh avocado, wrapped in a grilled whole wheat tortilla. Tomatillo hollandaise, lime crema, pico de gallo, house-pickled onions, fresh cilantro and cotija cheese top it off. That very detailed description convinced 69% of potential purchasers to rate the burrito as craveable.
3. Bananas Foster Sundae
Sweets seekers were attracted to this indulgent item at Hard Rock Cafe, with 70% of potential purchasers finding it craveable. The description includes several tempting cues for dessert fans: buttery pound cake, vanilla ice cream, Myers’ rum-infused bananas Foster sauce, whipped cream and toasted walnuts.
2. Espresso Martini
Hard Rock landed three of its seasonal LTOs in the top 10, with this cocktail coming in at No. 2 for craveability with 70% of potential purchasers. It’s a three-ingredient blend of Grey Goose vodka, Kahlua and fresh-brewed espresso, served chilled and frothy. Bars are tapping into the popularity of cold brew and specialty coffees to flavor cocktails.
1. Philly Cheesesteak Sauced and Loaded Fries
Topping off the list of January’s most craveable LTOs is this Philly Cheesesteak combo from Jack in the Box. Seventy-four percent of potential purchasers craved the item after reading its description, which includes seasoned curly fries topped with shredded cheese, cheese sauce, grilled onions, grilled green peppers and pieces of Philly cheesesteak. Cheesy and meaty are two descriptors that elicit cravings among consumers, according to Technomic’s Menu Concept Development research.