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Menu Tracker: California Pizza Kitchen, Dunkin’, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Noodles & Company test new items

Plus innovation at Bartaco, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, Golden Chick, The Habit Burger Grill, Papa Murphy’s, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Qdoba Mexican Eats, Roy Rogers Restaurants, Smashburger, Velvet Taco, Voodoo Doughnut and Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade

It used to be that chain restaurants would test new menu items quietly, getting feedback from their customers without the prying eyes of their competition or the media.

That’s still often the case, but increasingly chains, realizing that social media makes it hard for them to keep secrets anyway, go ahead and publlicize what they’re trying out in limited markets.

This week alone, California Pizza Kitchen is testing a new chickpea crust in Los Angeles and Florida, Taco Bell is briefly testing a new plant-based chicken substitute at one location in Irvine, Calif., Wendy’s is testing a black bean burger in three markets, Noodles & Company is testing salads in select location in four states and Dunkin’ is carrying out two tests — of cold brew with coconut milk in some markets and of kombucha in others — while also rolling out drinks with a new smoked vanilla syrup.

Meanwhile, Bartaco has brought back its lobster taco for the summer while rolling out a new cocktail, sister chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are highlighting bacon and ranch, Golden Chick is selling chicken thighs starting next month and Papa Murphy’s is putting Fritos Corn Chips on pizza.

The Habit Burger Grill has a new salad for the summer.

In beverage news, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen has a new lemonade platform, Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade is combining watermelon and coconut water, Roy Rogers has a new cold brew coffee with vanilla and Smashburger has a line of summertime shakes.

Qdoba Mexican Eats has four new condiments for guests to put on their entrées, Voodoo Doughnut has a ginger peach canolo and Velvet Taco’s Weekly Taco Feature has jerk sauce mixed with chimichurri.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiar

Correction: June 25, 2021
An error in the availability of Roy Rogers' new menu items has been corrected.
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