While some favorite foods can be discontinued, others are added.
This article is free from bias and is based on company publications and media reports. All information linked in this article is fully attributed to the following outlets: People.com, EatThis.com, CheesecakeFactory.com, Restaurant.com and Technomic.
The chain restaurant industry continues to pivot from the lows of the early pandemic era.
A February 2022 article by People.com’s Dave Quinn titled “All the New Menu Items from Your Favorite Chain Restaurants and Fast Foods” lists new offerings from chains such as Taco Bell (Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos), Wendy’s (Hot Honey Chicken Biscuit and Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich) Subway (The Vault), Sonic (Oreo Double Stuff Waffle Cone and Blast) and over a dozen others.
While most chain entities continue to swap out old items for new ones, one restaurant is only supplementing its options.
EatThis.com reported last year that Cheesecake Factory was adding nearly two dozen items to its menu. See here for “The Cheesecake Factory Just Made a Big Announcement About Its Menu” by Mura Dominko, which explained how the chain is adapting a different strategy than most in the pandemic era: In fact, The Cheesecake Factory is doing the opposite of simplifying operations — it’s continuing to expand its menu amid the pandemic. The chain rolled out a Timeless Classics section with 11 new dishes in October and announced the addition of a dozen new menu items several weeks ago. Slated to arrive in all locations in March (of 2021), the latest additions include new brunch options, a cheeseburger, pasta, and even tacos.
Regardless of the pandemic era, however, most chain-style restaurants have already been fluid over the years in their menu options.
Let’s explore further.
Menu changes for other channels, 2022
According to the previously linked People.com article: Panera launched in 2022 with two new items, including Crispy Asian Citrus Salad with Chicken. This salad features fresh romaine and a mix of chopped broccoli, collard greens, carrots, and kale – all tossed with edamame, pickled red onions, and fresh cilantro in a ginger and lemon dressing. tangerine soy, and topped with hot seared chicken thigh meat, crispy carrots, and a teriyaki fillet. The brand has also added Thai chicken soup to its menu.
Restaurant.com, in a January 2022 article titled “Restaurant Trends That Will Define 2022” by Emma Liem Beckett, Julie Littman and Aneurin Canham-Clyne, predicts the following: Supply chain issues, rising food prices and a lack of available labor have led many restaurants to cut menu items. By the end of the third quarter of 2021, the total number of restaurant menu items on offer had fallen 10% from a pre-pandemic high, according to Technomic. As the economic disruption from COVID-19 drags on, menus may continue to shrink. Alec Haesler, director of Carl Marks Advisors, said operators are likely to switch from one protein to another if a protein source experiences sustained price inflation or shortages.
The article goes on to discuss various plant-based options that are beginning to proliferate in the fast food market, including offerings from McDonald’s (the McPlant) and Starbucks, largely due to cost increases in meat price.
Burger King already has its plant-based options, as do outlets such as Del Taco, Carl’s Junior and others, largely through partnerships with the two industry leaders: Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
Outside of plant-based options, the rest of the equation once again comes down to consumer demand. Sometimes, as with Costco’s food court which largely rejected consumer demand for the return of their Polish dog and combo pizza — see my recent article on the subject here — restaurants encourage customer feedback.
However, a consumer may not always receive what they want, due to various factors such as the shift towards automation and, as mentioned earlier, simple profitability.
The restaurant industry in general has always been fluid when it comes to menu offerings. Although the pandemic era has largely influenced pivoting strategies on the part of chains large and small, those that have survived continue to be open when it comes to menu changes.
Thanks for the reading.