By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Fast food restaurants are offering secret items that you won’t find listed on the menu boards. It’s all the buzz on social media with these so-called secret menus spreading on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. So we asked 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan to check it out.
If you’ve never seen Power Steak Lettuce Wraps on Panera’s menu, you’re not alone. Because it’s not listed. But I ordered it anyway. It’s one of six Healthful Hidden Options customers with Panera loyalty cards were told about – but otherwise, it’s a bit of a secret. Emily Lutz of Panera says, “If your look around on social media you’ll definitely see clues and little things mentioning it, but you won’t really see it on our main menu panels.”
Over at Chipotle you won’t find a quesarito on the menu, but they knew what I was talking about and made it for me no questions asked. A quesarito is a cheese quesadilla that’s used as the tortilla wrap for a burrito. (It tastes really good by the way.)
The quesarito is one over 200 secret menu items found on a website that Kiley Libuit helped launch called Hack the Menu. Libuit says, “Me and my friends started ordering secret menu items and we really enjoyed it so we thought we could make a site to share it with everyone else.”
Some of the “secret” menu items may have been offered by restaurants in the past, like at Subway where I ordered a pizza sub. The item hasn’t been on the menu for two years, but they made me one nonetheless. According to Libuit, “If they have the ingredients there most of the time they’re happy to make it for you.”
A website called Starbucks Secret Menu lists frappuccino flavors from Nutella to cotton candy. When I ordered two of the cotton candy variety I had to explain what it was to the barista, it’s a vanilla frapaccino with a pump of raspberry, but they made it for me anyway.
Whether it’s restaurants that are cooking up the ideas, or customers creating dishes and posting them online, business professor Elaine Luther believes it’s all good. She says, “Sometimes the best ideas come from the customer.”
At McDonald’s I ordered something that’s mentioned on various websites, it’s called a Land, Sea and Air burger. The folks working the drive-thru seemed stumped. But when I explained that it was a combination of a Big Mac, filet of fish, and a McChicken sandwich, they gave me the ingredients so I could make it myself.
About half the time the servers knew what we were talking about when we mentioned a secret menu item. But when they didn’t, they were happy to accommodate us. By the way, we did make one final stop, Dairy Queen. I ordered a chocolate chip blizzard. It’s not on the menu, but they knew exactly what I wanted and whipped one up with no questions asked.
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