Special Report

New Menu Items at America's Favorite Chain Restaurants

One of the great appeals of chain restaurants has always been consistency. The Crunchwrap Supreme you get in Walla Walla is going to be pretty much identical to the one you get in Tuscaloosa. A Big Mac is a Big Mac is a Big Mac.

Despite this admittedly sometimes reassuring cookie-cutter dependability, the fact is that big restaurant companies never rest. Their test kitchens, often staffed by highly talented chefs who could easily be turning out pricey prix-fixe dinners in restaurants of their own, are constantly tinkering with existing recipes and forms of presentation and also developing new products to try out on the hungry masses. (These are favorite fast food restaurants in 30 U.S. cities.)

Sometimes these new menu items are tested only in a few markets. Sometimes they appear for a limited time only, either by design or because they fail to find an audience and get kicked to the curb. One thing is sure, though: Chains regularly beef up their menus with new offerings.

To assemble a list of new chain restaurant menu items as the summer winds down, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the past month’s Menu Tracker articles in Nation’s Restaurant News, a leading national restaurant trade publication. NRN’s senior food and beverage editor, Bret Thorn, tracks menus at large and small chains across the country, reporting any additions to the menus. 

Click here to see new chain restaurant menu items as summer ends

On this month’s list of 33 new menu items, there are – as usual – a number of chicken dishes (11 altogether). The persisting warmth of the season makes items like Auntie Anne’s dragonfruit mango frozen lemonade and Outback Steakhouse’s strawberry salad (with, yes, chicken) seem particularly appropriate. 

The Brisket-It-All Melt (brisket burnt ends, bacon, eggs, and sharp white cheddar on grilled bread) at Denny’s and the stuffed cheesecake pancake breakfast (with eggs and bacon or sausage) at Cracker Barrel are perhaps less obviously seasonal, but will doubtless find their partisans, no matter where the mercury stands. (Don’t feel like fast food? These are 35 best vegan restaurants in America.)

Oh, and one of America’s most enduring autumnal culinary clichés makes an early appearance here with Krispy Kreme’s Pumpkin spice original glazed doughnut.

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