What’s The Deal With Secret Menus And Should Your Restaurant Have One?

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Secret Menus, Are They A Secret?

Secret menus: Panera Bread has one, as do many other restaurants whether they officially say they do, or not. But if these menus are a secret, why are they called a secret? There has to be some sort of advertising in order for customers to find out…right?

The purpose behind these “secret menus” is actually quite simple; They allow restaurants to serve more items than can be displayed on their menu. But there are a few different reasons why restaurants have secret menus, all of which work best for them specifically. So for restaurants interested in starting a secret menu, consider what works best for your establishment and start from there.

secret menus

Beyond The Menu Board

In a recent article by CNBC, they spoke with Chris Ponzio of BurgerFi, who said they don’t want to overburden their guests with everything on the menu. So there’s that aspect to it. The more items added to a menu board means the board will need to be bigger, or the font will need to be smaller.  This could make it difficult for customers to read, or as Ponzio told CNBC, can make the menu a little overwhelming.

But for others, it’s really not as much as a secret menu as it is allowing people to be flexible with certain menu items.

Flexibility, “Build-Your-Own”

USA Today spoke with Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch who said customers began to ask for their Doritos Locos Tacos to be served in their Cheesy Gordita Crunch shells. They embraced this request, rolled with it and that’s where it took off.

Granted, these secret menus vary  by restaurant, especially for chains. Many vary location to location. But according to CNBC, there have restaurants with enough popular “secret menu” items that they have added a button for them on their payment machines.

“The menu also features items created by employees and serves a sort of soft landing space for one unpopular dish that used to be on the regular board,” they said.

secret menusFor The Health Conscious

There’s another aspect to these menus too. Panera Bread actually has “Panera’s Hidden Menu” on their website and it is geared toward the health conscious.

“All these meal selections are an excellent source of protein and contain limited processed carbs,” Panera’s website explained. “But you won’t find these items on banners in our cafes, or even on the menu board.”

How To Spread The Word

So how do you spread the word about a secret menu if it’s supposed to be a secret? Basically, just don’t put it on the menu, but talk about it everywhere else.  Social media is huge when it comes to secret menus.  It’s an informal way to share the news with customers and guides them to the locations that have the secret menus.

Restaurants can also have employees tell customers, or even make suggestions to hint they can be more flexible, such as requests at Taco Bell to put Doritos Locos Tacos in Cheesy Gordita Crunch shells.

Websites are great too, which is validation to some people.  Many restaurants cannot be as flexible, which may make restaurant-goers leery to ask for an item prepared differently. However, if they see it coming from the source directly, even if it’s on a verified Twitter or their Facebook account, it will help them confidently place their order from the secret menu.

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