Spring has traditionally been a time for consumers to shape up for swimsuit season with a healthier eating routine. While some chains are going along with this tradition by launching seasonal salads and slimming smoothies, others are going the opposite way. A wave of decadent dishes and drinks has hit menus in recent weeks, and operators are not shy about touting their indulgence.
There’s solid research behind this strategy—38% of consumers agree that eating out is a treat, and they order what they want at restaurants whether it’s healthy or not, according to Technomic’s Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. Here’s a roundup of chains that are fulfilling that desire with decadent new menu items.
1. Donut fries
Dunkin’ Donuts is testing a new hybrid snack that combines two of America’s guilty pleasures—french fries and donuts. The chain’s Donut Fries debuted in Boston-area stores as part of a snack menu that also includes mini-donut dippers, waffle-breaded chicken tenders and gluten-free brownies. Customers get five fried donut sticks for $2, but there’s no law against ordering more than one.
2. Extra cheese, please
Pizza Hut’s latest offering is the Double Cheesy Crust Pan Pizza—another hybrid of sorts. The new pizza combines two of the chain’s iconic menu items—the Stuffed Crust Pizza and the Original Pan Pizza—and features a ring of cheese baked inside the edge of the crust. An additional layer of toasted Parmesan is baked on top of the crust edge and the pizza is topped with more Parmesan. This LTO was launched in celebration of Pizza Hut’s 60th birthday.
3. A meaty mouthful
The Boss, an indulgent new burger from Chili’s Grill & Bar, is in test at several locations. Customers have to open wide to take a bite, as the towering burger layers five meats, cheese, lettuce, tomato and two sauces between the buns. The meaty stack includes bacon, jalapeno-cheddar smoked sausage, pulled rib meat, smoked brisket and a half-pound beef patty.
4. Make it crispy
The Crispy Colonel Sandwich is coming out of KFC’s fryers right now. It features a hand-breaded chicken fillet with a crunchy exterior that’s served on a toasted bun with mayo and pickles. KFC is offering the sandwich in three flavor variations: smoky barbecue, Nashville hot and honey mustard.
5. Burger and a shake
Overstuffed sandwiches seem to be a running menu theme this spring. Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s launched a new Memphis BBQ Thickburger nationwide, featuring an Angus beef patty, a thick layer of smoked pulled pork and the chains’ signature Memphis barbecue sauce, topped with crispy fried onions and cheese. Also new from the two brands is a Jolly Rancher milkshake—a vanilla shake mixed with the iconic hard candies.
6. Milk and cookies
Shakes featuring a branded sweet snack are also on the docket at Sonic Drive-In. The chain’s limited-time Cookie Jar Shakes are available in three variations: a Choco Chunky Chocolate Shake, which blends in crumbled Chips Ahoy cookies and chocolate syrup; an Oreo Caramel Shake, which contains the classic sandwich cookies and caramel syrup; and the Nutter Butter Banana Shake, made with cookie pieces and fresh bananas.