Secret Menus: A Hit with Customers, A Win for Restaurants

Imagine standing in line at Starbucks, ordering your usual, unremarkable mocha, when the person next to you asks for a S’mores Frappucino, or perhaps, a Peach Ring Iced Tea. If you’d never heard of these exotic concoctions before, you’d probably scour the menu board, to no avail, until the customer next to you revealed, with a knowing smile: “You won’t find this one on the board; It’s a secret menu item.”

The experience of discovering a restaurant’s secret menu can be eye-opening. Catching on to a delicious and exciting new flavor combination can renew a customer’s interest in a particular establishment. While ordering from a secret menu, customers often feel a sense of complicity with the restaurant that never existed before. Indeed, many secret menu options were designed by customers themselves, proving how much influence they have on the dining-out experience.

In addition to the above factors, secret menus are simply a whole lot of fun – for servers and in-the-know customers alike. Here are five well-known national restaurants that enjoy a reputation for offering popular, secret menu items:

In-N-Out Burger. Most people have heard of In-N-Out’s “animal style” burgers and fries, even though they aren’t on the menu. It just proves how word of mouth on secret menu items can spread like wildfire. In addition to “animal style” concoctions made with additional toppings, the restaurant offers secret menu items like protein burgers and cheese fries. Shhhh!

Jamba Juice. Fruit combinations quench the thirst at this national smoothie chain, as do secret menu choices made with Gummy Bears, Butterfingers, peanut butter and jelly, and even Fruity Pebbles cereal. Orange Whip is also a popular secret menu option at Jamba Juice. Order one of the above to feel like a part of an insider club.

Chipotle. Chipotle may be fast, but the food here has a reputation for being fresh and flavorful, too. Did you know you can ask for your burritos double-wrapped, or request a mash-up meal like the top-secret Burritodilla or Quesarito?

Panera. Follow Panera’s lead and your secret menu items may actually become more popular than what’s actually on the menu. Panera likes to spread the word on these cool additions, like their Power Breakfast Egg Bowl with Steak, Power Chicken Hummus Bowl, and Power Steak Lettuce wraps by listing them on their website and advertising avenues.

Subway. Inventive patrons have influenced this sandwich chain’s unofficial menu items, including the Chicken Parmesan sub or the Pizza Sub, made with cheese, signature marinara sauce, and pepperoni.

Far from comprehensive, this list highlights just a handful of the many national, quick-serve restaurants that have found success with a secret menu item’s cult following. By the way, secret menus aren’t exclusive to the quick-serve segment; many high-end restaurants also take part in this strategic trend. In San Francisco, for instance, the likes of Foreign Cinema, Anchor Oyster Bar, and The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen highlight secret menu items of their own.

Worried that integrating a secret menu will challenge your internal restaurant operations? That won’t be the case with Revel. Our custom iPad POS solution will ensure a seamless transition for your secret menu offerings. If you want to start your own secret menu, setting up new items on the Revel iPad POS takes only a few minutes.