New items started trickling onto menus at the start of summer, but now that fall is around the corner, that trickle has turned into a torrent. Chefs and menu developers have been refining recipes and LTOs these past months, and chains were itching to get them into the hands of customers. These are some of the surprises in store during September, several taking consumers on a culinary world tour.
Chick-fil-A’s streamlined menu doesn’t usually see a lot of additions, but two new beverages and a dessert launched this week. The QSR is offering a custom coffee blend, brewed with beans from Central and South America. Thrive Farmers Hot Coffee has a nutty, caramel flavor profile that pairs well with its breakfast items. For iced fans, there’s Mocha Cream Cold Brew, a limited-time offer. On the sweet side are individually wrapped Chocolate Fudge Brownies studded with chocolate chunks. These treats can also be purchased by the tray.
El Pollo Loco
To reflect the diverse neighborhoods that make up El Pollo Loco’s hometown of Los Angeles, the chain created a line of L.A. Mex Burritos. The selection showcases traditional Mexican flavors with a California twist. Four options are available: the California Queso Burrito, filled with fire-grilled chicken, seasoned fries, guacamole, pintos, queso blanco and pico de gallo; the Chicken Tinga Burrito, containing lightly smoked chicken, seasoned rice, pintos, avocado, pico de gallo and queso fresco; the World’s First Keto Burrito, a low-carb mix of chicken, spinach, red cabbage and avocado topped with creamy cilantro, pico de gallo and cotija cheese in a high-fiber tortilla; and the Chickenless Pollo Burrito, based on a plant protein simmered in adobo sauce.
Chopt Creative Salad Co.
Chopt Creative Salad Co. is also giving California a little love right now. The chain isrecognizing the state with its line of Destination California salads. Available through the fall, the roster includes the Spicy Sonoma Caesar, Sweet & Spicy Koreatown Bowl and the Cali Cauliflower Salad. Along with their names, the salads incorporate California through local ingredients and flavors.
The Habit Burger Grill
Chicken is the protein of choice for Habit Burger Grill’s latest LTO—the Chicken Caprese on Garlic Ciabatta. The Italian-inspired sandwich is a build of flame-grilled, marinated chicken, melted mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes and housemade basil pesto aioli on a toasted ciabatta roll.
Piada Italian Street Food
A new Stuffed Pasta at Piada Italian Street Food also highlights the flavors of Italy. The fast casual introduced a four-cheese ravioli stuffed with ricotta, mascarpone, mozzarella and Parmesan that can be added as an upgrade for $1.99 through the end of October. It’s part of a celebration commemorating Piada’s 10 years of service. To add to the festivities, the 38-unit chain is offering rewards and freebies to guests who order online or through the app.
Fuzzy's Taco Shop
Traveling back to Mexican cuisine, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop has a seasonal taco to welcome fall. The Citrus Heat Mahi Taco features grilled and tempura-battered mahi rolled in a soft corn tortilla and topped with garlic sauce, a fiery orange honey habanero sauce and crunchy cabbage slaw mixed with jalapenos and red bell peppers. The taco is garnished with spice-dusted grilled pineapple.
Pei Wei tapped Thailand for culinary inspiration. The fast-casual Asian chain partnered with celeb chef Jet Tila to create Thai Coconut Curry Chicken. The LTO is prepared with steamed chicken pieces marinated with garlic and salt, then tossed with broccoli, onions and bell peppers in a creamy Thai curry sauce and served over a bed of rice.
National Cheeseburger Day is Friday and Wayback Burgers is celebrating with the very limited-time offer of the Cheeesy Quarantini for that day only, This riff on the chain’s classic Cheeesy Burger swaps in four slices of spicy pepper jack cheese for the usual American cheese and layers it between two beef patties. Traditionally, a grilled-and-buttered bun is placed on the burger upside down, but the bun on the Cheeesy Quarantini is flipped right-side up. The idea is to “add a little kick to a year that keeps throwing punches,” said the news release.
The fall menu at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria launched this month, offering guests heartier seasonal choices. The Buffalo Chicken Pizza features flavors of the iconic wings: fire-braised chicken, hot sauce, gorgonzola crumbles and celery, with the added touch of mozzarella. Also on the menu are a twist on the wedge salad with romaine lettuce as the star and two nods to New York’s signature dessert—house-made cheesecake in chocolate and caramel apple variations.
Smoothie King is jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon, with the introduction of four smoothies. There’s a plant-based Vegan Pumpkin made with oat milk, Pumpkin Coffee High Protein, a mix of cold brew, pumpkin puree, protein powder, dates and almonds, and two lower calorie choices—Slim-n-Trim Pumpkin and Pumpkin D-Lite. All are blended with organic pumpkin puree and natural spices.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Over at Tropical Smoothie Cafe, there’s a new Berry Oat Protein Smoothie, a combo of blueberries, strawberries, pomegranate, whole-grain oats and protein. The chain is also expanding the food side of the menu with a Chicken Parma Flatbread. It’s a lighter take on traditional chicken parm, made with grilled chicken and topped with fresh mozzarella, Parmesan crisps, slow-roasted tomato spread and fresh basil.