Dip it, drizzle it, slather it over chicken wings, burgers and more—a signature sauce can set the menu apart. It’s also a low-labor way to change up an item and turn it into craveworthy LTO that sells.
Technomic’s consumer brand tracking team surveyed customers to find out what makes a condiment craveable. Not surprisingly, sauces at chicken and burger concepts were among the winners, but Mexican, Chinese and bagel chains also made it into the top 10. These were the picks that rose to the top and the reasons why.
Coming in at No. 1—and more than 20 percentage points above its closest competitor—is Raising Cane’s.
Consumers are really passionate about this chicken finger specialist’s sauce, specifically calling out its “uniqueness.” One respondent said “the sauce is so incredible; it tastes good on everything you purchase.” The signature Cane’s Sauce was created as a dip for the chicken fingers, but consumers love it so much, they also slather it on the chain’s Texas toast and fries, they admitted.
In-and-Out Burger earned second place for its “secret sauce” that tops both its burgers and Animal-Style Fries. Its fans also cite it as “unique,” but online commenters agree that it’s similar to Thousand Island dressing—a blend of mayo, ketchup and chopped pickles or pickle relish.
Zaxby’s special Zax Sauce landed in the No. 3 spot. It’s described by the chain as “a creamy blend of zesty spices whose tangy taste was custom-made for Zaxby's chicken fingers,” but one respondent replied “my granddaughter even likes it on her fries.” Another said “their sauces are to die for,” while a third called out the spicy Zax Sauce on Zaxby’s new spicy chicken sandwich.
Chinese-American chain Panda Express and Mexican concept Chuy’s serve several sauces that score points from consumers, ranking these brands No. 4 and 5 respectively. Panda’s honey-glazed chicken and chicken in sweet sauce were singled out, as was its teriyaki sauce. One fan likes to dip rangoon in the teriyaki sauce, while others prefer it on their chicken or with chow mein and fried rice.
At Chuy’s, the creamy jalapeno sauce, boom boom sauce and ranchero sauce were all called out for their craveability. One respondent also cited the Mexican chain’s tomatillo sauce served with flautas, while others found the creamy avocado sauce and salsa “really good.”
Cream cheese spreads on bagels were also categorized as condiments and ranked craveworthy enough to earn Bruegger’s and Einstein Bros. sixth and seventh place on the list.
Bruegger’s got points for its honey grain bagel with honey walnut spread, as well as a callout for the everything bagel with veggie cream cheese. “I crave it … the veggie cream cheese makes it so delicious,” one consumer said.
Consumers like the flavor variety, with one Einstein Bros. fan saying “the many flavors of cream cheese that you can put on the many flavors of bagels,” and another praising the chain for “the best jalapeno bacon cream cheese.”
Buffalo Wild Wings scored a bit lower than the other chicken chains, coming in at No. 8, but was also recognized for its unique sauces. “They offer wings with custom BBQ sauces I can’t find anywhere else,” noted one consumer. BWW's Mango habanero sauce and honey BBQ sauce were favorites among those surveyed.
Good old-fashioned gravy pushed Bob Evans up into the top 10, at No. 9. “Love their sausage gravy” and “the best sausage gravy and biscuits” were among the comments. The family-dining chain also scored well for its craveable open-face turkey and roast beef sandwiches with pan roasted gravy.
Rounding out the craveable sauce list is Freddy’s Frozen Custard at No. 10. Freddy’s Fry Sauce is the draw here, which comes in both spicy jalapeno and regular flavors. One consumer sums it up: “The fries are amazing and I love the spicy sauce they have. I put that in my burger as well and it makes a huge change.”
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.