Some fast casuals still pumped for pumpkin, others heating things up: part 2

Sept. 19, 2017 | by Cherryh Cansler
Some fast casuals still pumped for pumpkin, others heating things up: part 2

Updated: Sept 21

Pumpkin-flavored foods is an annual $500 million business, and although customers are still pumped for pumpkin, they're also ready to embrace more innovative flavors. As noted in part 1 of this two-part series on fall ingredients, a recent NPD study found that 75 percent of U.S. adults — especially young adults —  are open to trying new flavors.

Also backing that up was NPD's data showing a 7-percent increase over last year in the total spices and seasonings shipped from foodservice distributors to restaurants and other foodservice outlets. Among the most popular spices and seasonings being shipped to independent restaurants and commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets were curries — including tikka masala and yellow curry, which grew by 11 percent — and chili peppers, which grew by 12 percent.

"Pumpkin spice may have peaked, but it is not going away, it is everywhere, in everything," Solocheck said in an interview with FastCasual. "However, because pumpkin spice has become so ubiquitous across the industry, Americans are now looking for newer, more flavorful offerings. There are new fall flavors on the horizon, and they all seem to be related to 'kickin it up a notch.'"

With their focus on hot, spicy and bold flavors, Asian, Hispanic and African flavors are becoming more mainstream this season, but as Solocheck said, pumpkin isn't going anywhere. Below is a partial list of fall menu LTOs, which feature pumpkin-flavored everything along with ethnic flavors, a focus on brisket and hot and spicy options.

Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers

Freddy's jalapeno pepper jack steakburger

The newest addition to the fall menu at Freddy's is a jalapeno pepper jack steakburger. Available through Nov. 15, the burger has two steakburger patties, topped with pepper jack cheese, grilled jalapenos,  onion rings and Freddy’s Jalapeno Fry Sauce.

The chain has also created a pumpkin pie concrete, featuring fresh and creamy frozen custard blended with a  slice of pumpkin pie, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with cinnamon. The shake is on the menu until Dec. 24.

B.Good

B.Good, a 60-unit, farm-to-table chain focused on seasonal cooking, is introducing multiple dishes this fall, including avocado toast, vegetarian zucchini spaghetti and Eggplant Meatballs, according to a company press release.

Founded in 2003, B. Good sources as much as possible from local, independent farmers.

Newk's Eatery 

A limited-time menu full of fall flavors is ready to go at Newk's Eatery, according to a company press release.

Now through Nov. 5, the menu includes: 

  • Roasted butternut squash, oven roasted turkey and kale salad, which pairs kale with in-house roasted butternut squash and hand-carved turkey breast. Topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and shredded Parmesan cheese, the salad is finished with Newk's apple cider vinaigrette.
  • Sliders, made with game-watch parties and tailgates in mind, come in three ways. Options include a Pork “Q” Sandwich and Pork “Q” Sliders, served with Newk's white BBQ sauce and Ammerländer Swiss cheese. The third option is the Newk's “Q” Slider, which features grilled chicken breast and crumbled bacon.
  • Carolina gold pulled pork pizza 
  • Pumpkin cream cheese cake.

"We craft our limited-time-only dishes around the season's best ingredients at their peak of freshness and flavor," Newk's CEO and founder Chris Newcomb, said in the release. "Each dish is handmade in-house, from Fall ingredients like roasted turkey, butternut squash, kale, toasted pumpkin seeds and real pumpkin along with spices like nutmeg, clove, ginger and cinnamon."

California Tortilla

Starting Oct. 2, the fast casual Mexican chain is serving the Cubano Bowl, according to a company press release. At $8.49, the bowl is made with rice, black beans, mesquite chicken, mango salsa, sour cream, avocados, fried plantains, limes, cilantro and the chain's Havana sauce. It includes BBQ sauce, lime juice, orange juice, jalapeno, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, green chilies, cilantro and crushed tomatoes. 

Piada Italian Street Food

The Columbus-based fast casual, which serves piadas, pastas and salads, is dedicated to seasonal menu items, incorporating summer items like avocado and fall flavors like  roasted sweet potato, according to a company press release.

With a focus on providing more gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options, the chain's fall menu includes the Harvest Grain Salad, Mediterranean Power Bowl, Porchetta Sandwich and Blood Orange Pomegranate Tea.

The Habit's Grilled Hatch and Golden Chicken Salad

The Habit Burger Grill

The Habit Restaurant is incorporating the hatch chile — created by combining three chiles —  in its fall menu. The chain's chefs chargrill each chile over an open flame to bring out its smoky flavor and deepen the savory taste, according to a company press release.

Menu items include:

  • Grilled Hatch and Pepper Jack Charburger, which features chargrilled Hatch green chiles and melted Pepper Jack cheese atop a charburger with tomatoes, lettuce and The Habit's spiced Hatch green chile aioli.
  • Grilled Hatch and Golden Chicken Salad, which combines a hand-breaded, fried chicken breast and chargrilled Hatch green chiles, serving them with fresh garden greens, feta cheese, crumbled bacon, carrots and diced tomatoes. The salad is tossed in The Habit's house-made cilantro lime ranch dressing.
  • Grilled Hatch and Pepper Jack Chicken Sandwich, made with chargrilled chicken breast on toasted sourdough bread and topped with Hatch green chiles, melted Pepper Jack cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and  Hatch green chile aioli.

They are available through Oct. 3.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Tropical Smoothie Cafe has added a few seasonal items to the menu, available through Oct. 22.

They include:

  • Green Apple Matcha smoothies: contains a blend of matcha green tea, green apples, bananas, kale, spinach, basil and lime.
  • PB Apple Power Up: has 41 grams of protein and combines peanut butter, green apples, bananas, cinnamon and whey protein.
  • Baja chicken wrap: made with grilled chicken, rice, black beans, smashed avocado, romaine, house-made pickled red onions, cheddar and roasted tomato salsa.

Slim Chickens

Slim Chickens is adding a pumpkin cheesecake jar dessert to the menu starting Oct. 2., according to a company press release. 

Siim Chickens'  pumpkin cheesecake jar dessert

Priced at $.4.99, the LTO will last until supplies run out.

Wetzel's Pretzels

Just in time for fall, Wetzel's Pretzel's has added Pumpkin Spice Bitz, pretzels made from scratch, baked and then tossed in a blend of sugar and spices. To amp up the fall flavor experience, Wetzel's is pairing Pumpkin Spice Bitz with its Pumpkin Caramel Dip, a caramel enhanced with classic pumpkin pie spices, according to a company press release.

Guests who download the Wetzel's Pretzels app by Oct. 1 will receive a free Pumpkin Spice Bitz. 

"Pumpkin Spice is the flavor of fall, and no one does it better than Wetzel's Pretzels," said Jennifer Schuler, Wetzel's Pretzels chief marketing officer. "Enjoyed on their own, or paired with our new Pumpkin Spice Caramel, Wetzel's Pumpkin Spice Bitz are an even more delicious way for guests to embrace the fall spirit in a delectable way."

Bruegger's Bagels

The fall menu at Bruegger's Bagels includes not only an ode to pumpkin but also features a chipotle brisket melt.

"Old world flavors of brisket and pastrami meet the new world bagel sandwich on the Smoky Brisket & Pastrami Egg Sandwich, made with a seasoned fresh-cracked egg, sliced brisket and pastrami, cheddar cheese and chipotle aioli on a toasted Everything Bagel," according to a company press release.

For lunch, the Chipotle Brisket Melt pairs sliced brisket, pepper jack cheese, red and green peppers, red onions, and chipotle mayo on a toasted Plain Bagel for a twist on smokehouse flavors and textures.

The chain's pumpkin offerings include a pumpkin bagel, pumpkin cream cheese and pumpkin spice coffee made with cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices, available through Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, the cranberry orange bagel replaces the Pumpkin Bagel in the line-up.

Bruegger's pumpkin bagel and pumpkin spicecoffee

"As the days finally grow cooler, our seasonal menu celebrates all the savory goodness of fall," Bruegger's Bagels Vice President of Marketing Judy Kadylak, said in the release. "From smoky brisket to pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon, the flavors capture the enjoyment of a crisp day, the changing leaves and a chill in the air."

Qdoba

Qdoba Mexican Eats is bringing back smoked brisket just in time for fall football season.

Seasoned and smoked for 12 hours, the brisket is used in the smoked brisket burrito filled with rice, black beans, shredded cheese, pico de gallo and sour cream, according to a company press release.

Villa Italian Kitchen

Pumpkin spice pizza is coming to Villa Italian Kitchen. The pie, available at its nearly 230 locations starting Sept 22, includes pumpkin pie filling, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon, spread across the crust and topped with mozzarella cheese. Additional dollops of pumpkin pie filling top the melted cheese, according to a company press release.

"There's no denying that everyone loves pizza, so combining our hit Neapolitan Cheese Slice with the delicious fall flavors of pumpkin spice just made sense," Mimi Wunderlich, director of communications and digital marketing strategy for Villa Italian Kitchen, she said. "We are confident that this seasonal twist on our beloved cheese pizza will be a hit with all of our pumpkin spice loving guests this fall."

Gigi's Cupcakes

Gigi's Cupcakes has created several flavors inspired by fall including, including:

  • Pumpkin Spice Latte: pumpkin cake with a swirl of vanilla bean cream cheese frosting, sprinkled with sugar and pumpkin spice, finished with a drizzle of caramel. 
  • S'mores: S'mores cake, frosted and rimmed in Gigi's Grahams, topped with marshmallows then torched and garnished with a piece of a Hershey's chocolate bar.
  • Chocolate salted caramel cheesecake: chocolate cheesecake filled with sea salt caramel, topped with caramel frosting, drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce and finished with a sprinkle of sea salt.
  • Vanilla salted caramel cheesecake: cheesecake filled with Bavarian cream, topped with a caramel buttercream frosting, drizzled with caramel and finished with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Additional seasonal offerings include The Boo Box, which contains six vanilla and six Devil's Food mini cupcakes all decorated for Halloween with witches, pumpkins and ghosts. The Gobble Box includes 12 cupcakes with Thanksgiving-themed buttercream frosting.

Subway

Subway is bringing back the Autumn carved turkey for a limited time. Customers may order the sandwich made with oven-roasted turkey breast, sliced cheddar cheese and cranberry mustard sauce through Nov. 5.

Soulman's Bar-B-Que 

Soulman's Bar-B-Que, based in North, is combining brisket and tacos. 

Soulman's Bar-B-Que brisket tacos

"If there are two things that Texans take seriously, it's their barbecue and their tacos," Soulman's CEO Brett Randle, said in a company press release. "Soulman's is taking the best of both worlds and putting them together."

Made with smoked beef brisket, fire-roasted salsa and flour tortillas, the tacos are $9.99 for a combination with two 4-ounce sides.  

Saladworks
 

Saladworks is bringing back its Autumn harvest salad for a limited time. The salad, which has Craisins, carrots, pumpkin seeds, roasted corn, turkey medallions, apple chips and Pumpkin Vinaigrette dressing, is available Sept. 18-Nov. 12, according to a company press release.

    Jamba Juice

    To celebrate fall, Jamba Juice has created a couple pumpkin offerings, including:

    • The Pumpkin Protein, which blends together the nostalgic fall flavors of pumpkin pie with 23 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. It also has almond milk, pumpkin spice base, cinnamon, Chia seeds and whey protein.
    • The Pumpkin Smash is a creamy treat made with pumpkin spice, milk and nonfat frozen yogurt, according to a company press release. 

    Your Pie

    Your Pie is embracing the potato this season, serving a loaded baked potato pizza through Nov. 7. The pie feature Idaho potatoes, bacon, chives, white cheddar cheese and a sour cream drizzle, all on a base made with Your Pie's homemade ranch dressing, according to a company press release. 

    Your Pie's Loaded Baked Potato Pie

    Your Pie will also feature Dogfish Head as its brewing partner and introduce caramel cookie crunch gelato to its Craft Series menu.

    "The Loaded Baked Potato Pie captures all of the feelings and flavors of fall," said Your Pie Founder and President Drew French. 'This particular Craft Series offering is extra special to us because it was invented by our Roswell, Ga., franchisees and voted on by our entire system at last year's annual Franchise Fest. We are excited to share their unique and tasty creation with the entire Your Pie family."

    The Craft Series has been a seasonal feature of the Your Pie menu since the brand's inception in 2008 and today features five flavorful and seasonally focused pizzas each year. The Craft Series has featured popular pizza creations like the Slider Pie, a spin on the classic American cheeseburger; the fan favorite Peach Proscuitto Pie, which features fresh peaches, prosciutto and a honey balsamic glaze; and the Fresh Fiesta Pie—a deconstructed take on guacamole.

    Smoothie Factory

    Smoothie Factory is serving Power Java Smoothies, made with coffee, now through Dec. 31.

    Packed with protein and made with real coffee concentrate, the Power Java Smoothies come in three different flavors: White Chocolate Mocha, Raspberries and Cream Cafe and Cinnamon Almond Latte. White Chocolate Mocha and Raspberries and Cream Cafe contain 19 grams of protein, while Cinnamon Almond Latte contains 23 grams, Craig Erlich, president of Smoothie Holdings, said in a company press release.

    "Coffee is such a popular flavor profile, we wanted to meet that need on our menu," he said. 'Smoothie Factory has had a long-standing commitment to health-focused smoothies and a menu line-up that caters to a wide variety of taste and nutritional goals. Now our customers can power their day with both coffee and protein with these three new smoothies."

    Smoothie Factory was founded by Olympic athlete James Villasana in 1996, in Carrollton, Texas.

    Togo's

    Togo's Eateries has incorporated Sriracha into the menu, offering customers Sriracha Melts. Made with hot roast beef, fresh turkey or pastrami, the melts come on toasted sourdough with melted provolone cheese and Sriracha sauce.

    Togo's Sriracha Melts

    "Our bold new Sriracha Melts are just the latest in a line of new products and quality enhancements that we are introducing to delight our customers," Glenn Lunde, president of Togo's said in a company press release. "Better ingredients, bigger portions and bolder flavors are providing our customers the best Togo's sandwiches ever."


    Topics: Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Trends / Statistics

    Companies: The NPD Group, Inc.



    Cherryh Cansler
    Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com. wwwView Cherryh Cansler's profile on LinkedIn

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