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Menu Tracker

Best of Menu Tracker: 48 striking menu items in 2021

A year of innovation at Arby’s, Bareburger, Black Tap, Carvel, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Clean Juice, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Del Taco, Din Tai Fung, Dunkin’, Dutch Bros, Fazoli’s, Firehouse Subs, First Watch, The Habit Burger Grill, IHOP, Jimmy John’s, Juice It Up!, Krispy Kreme, Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar B Que, McDonald’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Nathan’s Famous, Noodles & Company, Panera, PDQ, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Shake Shack, Smokey Bones, Starbucks, Subway, Sweetgreen, Taco Bell, Tijuana Flats, Tim Hortons, Velvet Taco , Voodoo Doughnut, Wing it On!, Wingstop, Your Pie and Zalat Pizza

Restaurant chains have faced supply and labor issues for much of 2021, but menu innovation continued apace at large and small concepts, including the launch of riced cauliflower and quesadillas at Chipotle Mexican Grill, burritos and bowls at IHOP, a fried chicken sandwich at Taco Bell and more non-dairy options from coffee chains including Dunkin’ and Starbucks.

McDonald’s relaunched the McRib as a national limited-time offer (in most years the chain launches the cult favorite regionally), joined by a premium rib sandwich at Arby’s that was marketed as a nose-tweak to the Golden Arches.

Arby’s also launched crinkle fries.

Bareburger introduced a plant-based seafood substitute.

With chicken wing prices skyrocketing, 7-unit chain Wing it On! introduced thighs as an LTO in February, followed by a national rollout of thighs by Wingstop.

Nathan’s Famous, in a twist in the fried-chicken-sandwich category, launched sandwiches made out of thighs, and Smokey Bones, which launched cinnamon-flavored “Dragon Wings” at the beginning of the year, launched whole three-joint wings as an option. The less-value-added product was presumably an attempt to give it more options as supply-chain issues continued.

Read on to see some of the other notable new items of 2021.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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