Launches of LTOs and new menu items accelerate

The pace of menu development is picking up as stay-at-home orders lift.
Photo courtesy of Cava

As restaurants reopen across the country, operators are tempting consumers with new menu items and limited time offers. Some chains did release LTOs during the quarantine, but most of those products were in the pipeline before the spread of COVID-19. Now that chefs and menu developers are back in the kitchen, the pace of launches is accelerating. Here are five innovative items that tap into current trends.

Two operators introduced new riffs on the ever-popular chicken sandwich.  Einstein Bros. Bagels debuted the French Toast Chicken Egg Sandwich that can satisfy both breakfast and lunch meal occasions. The limited-time option features eggs, crispy chicken, cheddar cheese and a honey-almond shmear on a French toast bagel.

Golden Chick announced the addition of its first-ever chicken breast sandwich, The Big & Golden. The sandwich is composed of a 5-ounce hand-breaded, deep-fried chicken breast layered with pickles and the chain’s signature Lotta Zing sauce on a house-baked sandwich bun. Golden Chick had been dropping hints about the launch on digital billboards around the Dallas area, and this week, it’s on the menu at all 190 locations.

The bowl trend continues strong, and Cava is capitalizing on it with its new Lamb Nacho Bowl. Lamb is not a typical protein on a fast-casual menu, but it’s a natural with Cava’s focus on Mediterranean food. The bowl features braised lamb, brown rice, super greens, harissa, pita crisps, feta cheese and pickled onions. Skhug, the spicy green condiment from the Mediterranean region, and harissa yogurt add another layer of flavor.

Pei Wei is also going for the heat with the introduction of its Spicy Thai Basil Cashew Chicken. The dish includes chicken breast, red bell peppers, onions, snap peas, garlic, Thai basil and cashews tossed in a spicy hoisin sauce.

Habit Grill

Family meals have skyrocketed on menus to appeal to households sheltering in place. With large gatherings still on hold, chains continue to put together these packages for small group and family dinners at home. The Habit Burger Grill is differentiating its new offering by calling it a Variety Meal “that satisfies everyone in the family.” The $30 deal includes an assortment of fan favorites: Two burgers with cheese, two chargrilled chicken sandwiches, two sides each of french fries and onion rings and an entree-size garden salad.

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