Mashup food items are currently at the center of menu innovation, especially at the QSR level. These mashups cause quite a stir in the press and are often backed by large publicity and multimedia campaigns. Most are limited-time offers or test items but some are launched as permanent menu items. They are meant to garner brand attention—especially from young consumers—and get customers through the door.
Mashups are nearly always comfort food combinations. While the Cronut brought the mashup phenomenon to pastries in a very public way in 2013, Taco Bell has been experimenting with savory mashup menu items for quite some time. The chain billed its 2012 Doritos Locos Tacos launch as the “biggest in Taco Bell history,” and sales of the mashup Frito-Lay product had surpassed $1 billion by the end of 2013.
Here are some recent menu mashups making waves:
- Pizza Hut is making headlines for its novelty mashup this month—the Hot Dog Bites Pizza, consisting of a pizza crust studded with 28 mini hot dogs.
- Olive Garden is celebrating its new Meatball Breadstick Sandwich and Chicken Parmesan Breadstick Sandwich with a seven-week food truck tour of the U.S.; the tour kicked off in New York City on June 8.
- Taco Bell’s Quesarito—a quesadilla-burrito hybrid—has been one of the bestselling test-market items for the brand since the Doritos Locos Tacos.
- Dunkin’ Donuts made its Croissant Donut a permanent menu addition this winter, citing the item as its most popular LTO in recent history.
Pizza Hut’s new Hot Dog Bites Pizza
The trend for mashups is driven by both consumers’ desire for new and unique flavors and the prevalence of indulgent meal occasions. According to Technomic’s most recent Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, consumers are more likely to consider ordering healthy options than actually purchase them at foodservice locations. Mashups also make great conversation pieces for younger consumers on social media.
While operators certainly welcome the great publicity generated by mashup items, the measure of true success lies in driving incremental sales. Menu items resulting in the greatest incremental business will likely find permanent positions on the menu. However, the novelty of these items may eventually wear off, requiring operators to brainstorm new products that both taste good and attract attention.