Americans may be more health-conscious than ever, but their craving for fast food is still going strong. In fact, the typical American adult gets more than 10 percent of total calories from fast food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reliability, convenience, and taste of fast food are among the food service industry trends that keep bringing customers back into fast food restaurants, but the fast food industry has a few additional tricks. Secret menus are among the components that help drive fast food success.
Customers Want Customization
Among the pronounced food service industry trends is the increased consumer preference for individuality. Customers have been patronizing restaurants that permit them to customize their orders and watch their food being prepared in front of their eyes. Secret menus also cater to customers by letting them feel as though they have more control over their food, creating stronger rapport and more intimate relationships between consumers and fast food restaurants, thus building brand loyalty.
Quietly Promoting the Secret Menu
These menus can draw in customers and drive up business, but their appeal lies in the feeling of exclusivity customers get by being in on a secret which poses a bit of a dilemma. How can fast food restaurants publicize their secret menus to attract consumers while maintaining their mystique?
Some fast food chains rely on word-of-mouth or online buzz to market their secret menu. McDonald’s, for example, offers a selection of secret menu items that have not been officially listed by the franchise, but are creations which have been shared from customer to customer and can be purchased at the burger chain.
Other fast food restaurants officially publish their secret menus. Panera is one such example. Its secret menu includes a variety of power breakfast salads, such as an egg bowl with steak and turkey, a Mediterranean chicken salad, and a bowl with hummus and chicken.
Business Insider reports that the following secret menu items are available at some chain locations.
- Subway’s pizza sub with tomato sauce, pepperoni, and salami.
- McDonald’s Big McChicken with fried chicken patties instead of buns on a Big Mac.
- Starbuck’s Green Eye with three shots of espresso.
- Burger King’s Suicide Burger with four patties, four cheese slices, and bacon.
- Taco Bell’s Enchirito, or an enchilada with cheese, beans, and beef.
Secret or Not-So-Secret Menus?
In-N-Out has taken a different approach to secret menus. The west coast franchise has denied having a secret menu and responded to rumors by publishing its “Not-So-Secret Menu” on the company website. The California-based burger chain explains that secret menus can make some customers feel “left out of the loop,” and that the reason why its restaurants might serve burgers that are not on the posted menu is because the company’s policy is to please customers by serving them what they want.
These are some of the items on In-N-Out’s Not-So-Secret menu.
- 3 x 3 with three burger patties and three slices of cheese.
- 4 x 4 with four burger patties and four slices of cheese.
- Grilled Cheese with cheese on a bun without meat.
- Protein Style with a lettuce leaf instead of a bun.
- Animal Style with a pickle, extra spread, and no bun.
Secret menus can help build brand recognition. They provide the opportunity for customers to ask for unusual combinations of the fast food chain-specific ingredients that they already know and like. Fast food restaurants can take the demand for secret menus as a compliment because they demonstrate consumer interest.
Anyone watching food service industry trends should take notice of secret menus at fast food restaurants. The secret may be out, but these menu items can draw consumers and build brand recognition.