New items keep rolling out even as some chains shrink menus

Foods to-go continue to trend and breakfast makes a comeback.
Photo courtesy of IHOP

Taco Bell’s recent announcement that it was cutting 12 items from its permanent menu next month resulted in cries of protest from many fans on social media. But it makes sense for fast-food spots to focus on speed and efficiency to maximize their drive-thru business—a bright spot and revenue generator during the pandemic.

Grilled Cheese Burrito

But Taco Bell isn’t abandoning menu launches and LTOs. Almost simultaneously, the QSR debuted the Grilled Cheese Burrito, translating the classic comfort food into a Mexican favorite. It features a three-cheese filling of mozzarella, cheddar and pepper jack cheese, along with sour cream, beef, rice, red bell pepper strips and chipotle sauce. But what makes this burrito unique is a layer of cheese that is grilled around the outside of the tortilla to create a crisp, cheesy crust. Taco Bell’s senior dairy scientist worked with the culinary team to perfect the item, according to a statement from the chain. 

During shelter-in-place mandates, restaurant breakfast sales slumped. Housebound consumers tended to order lunch and dinner items for carryout or delivery, but breakfast was a home-grown affair. Now operators are counting on breakfast-bored diners to go out for the morning meal, and they’re tempting them with new menu items.

IHOP introduced three new BreakFEASTS geared toward sit-down customers. The Kickin’ Maple Chicken BreakFEAST features Maple Sweet & Spicy Syrup, the chain’s first new syrup in over 30 years. It’s drizzled on a crispy buttermilk chicken breast that’s accompanied by bacon, eggs, hash browns, buttermilk pancakes and toast. The other two dishes in the lineup are the Crepes & Cakes and the Classic BreakFEAST Sampler. A Crème Brulee Pancake Combo and Green Chili Omelet are also making their menu debut.

Pancakes are also the focus of the new Fiona Berry Big Cake and Fiona Berry Pancakes at Frisch’s Big Boy. The pancakes come with blackberry sauce, purple sprinkles and whipped topping, while the cake is layered with ice cream in addition to the other ingredients. Both LTOs are named for the Cincinnati Zoo’s popular hippopotamus, Fiona, and a portion of the sales will go toward supporting the zoo and its botanical garden. Frisch’s Big Boy also has a limited number of Fiona Plush Animals available for purchase.

There was lots of activity at Logan’s Roadhouse this month with the launch of Ready-to-Grill Kits for at-home cooks and new Family Meals. The kits range in price from $5 to $15 and include options such as sirloin, pork chops and baby back ribs along with a seasoning blend. Families can opt instead for readymade dinners, including grilled chicken, mesquite-grilled sirloins or slow-cooked barbecued ribs.

Emerging concept Bolay created a new to-go line designed for easy ordering and pickup. The Click & Go Bols are available in seven varieties covering a range of global flavors. Among the choices are the Baja Bol (basmati rice, cilantro noodles, ginger broccoli, lemon chicken and sliced avocado), the Havana Bol (basmati rice, beans, herb-roasted potatoes, mojo pulled pork and freshly chopped cilantro) and the Fire in the Bol (Asian sweet potato noodles, herb-roasted potatoes, ginger broccoli, spicy Thai shrimp and fresh cilantro).


And Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is tying its latest menu promotion into outdoor dining on its patios. The chain is offering Queso Flights and Lime Seltzeritas in its new Summer Fridays happy hour, which guests can enjoy any day of the week. The flight-size portions of queso come in three versions: traditional queso, guacamole queso and ground beef or pork green chili queso, varying by location. Also on offer is Fuzzy’s signature frozen margarita topped with a can of lime hard seltzer. Customers can also order up a frozen or on-the-rocks FuzzyRita sans seltzer.

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