Several restaurant chains released their first autumn promotions right after Labor Day, and it looks like it’s going to be a season ofspecials — particularly those featuring chicken breast — bold sauces, and a lot of pumpkin.
Take a look at what to expect on menus this season.
As commodity prices rise, chicken breast remains an affordable option, according to commodities analyst and Nation’s Restaurant News columnist John Barone.
Chains are taking advantage of that with a glut of chicken breast limited-time offers, most notably from Burger King, which launched its biggest chicken-based promotion ever this week. The lineup includes a chicken Parmesan sandwich, popcorn chicken with eight dipping sauce options, and an Italian basil chicken sandwich on the chain’s first whole wheat bun.
KFC also has brought back Chicken Littles — slider-sized sandwiches of batter-fried chicken breast that the chain rotates into its lineup periodically.
Midwestern quick-service chain Culver’s is featuring crispy chicken tenders in its new Asian Crunch Salad, available from Sept. 10 through Dec. 30. It also includes grape tomatoes, cucumbers, Mandarin oranges, almonds and garlic-ginger wontons, tossed in a new sesame dressing.
Some of Boston Market’s new sauces reflect an ongoing penchant for sweet-and-spicy items, and continue a trend of restaurants using sauces as an easy way to allow for customization, something Chili’s, Popeyes and Wing Zone all have done in recent weeks.
Boston Market’s Market Bowl menu plays on Election Day themes and gives customers a choice of ordering “right wing” , “left wing” chicken, or meat loaf with two sides. They are served in a bowl with a choice of five sauces: beef gravy, poultry gravy, mild barbecue sauce, medium-hot sweet Thai garlic sauce, or medium-hot honey habanero sauce.
Culver’s latest lineup also features bold-flavored sauces. Its new hamburger, the Colby Jack Pub Burger, is topped with Colby Jack cheese, crispy fried onions and four-pepper mayonnaise, along with a dash of steak sauce.
Right before Labor Day, Quaker Steak & Lube used wing sauces it already had in house to launch three new items — two featuring chicken tenders — at its 43 casual-dining restaurants.
The Tex Mex Chix Queso Mac features radiatore pasta coated with white queso blanco spiked with pico de gallo and topped with Tex-Mex seasoned grilled chicken tenders, roasted corn and black beans, Cheddar Jack cheese and crunchy tortilla strips.
The Philly Cheesesteak Pasta Bowl features the same pasta and cheese with chopped steak sautéed with mushrooms, red pepper and onion, and Provolone and Parmesan cheeses. The dish is served with grilled garlic bread.
The Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese is made with crunchy chicken tenders coated with the chain’s Arizona Ranch dressing over radiatore pasta, tossed in Guinness beer cheese sauce. It’s topped with provolone, bleu cheese crumbles, fresh celery and tomato, and it comes with garlic bread.
Pumpkin is a perennial fall favorite, particularly at large coffee chains such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, which offer pumpkin-flavored drinks this time of year.
Dunkin’ Donuts is integrating its K-Cups into the mix with the introduction of a pumpkin flavor for the season. It also is offering pumpkin doughnuts and Munchkin doughnut holes, as well as a pumpkin cream cheese to spread on bagels.
Einstein Bros. is bringing back its double-whipped sweet pumpkin cream cheese, as well as pumpkin and pumpkin walnut crunch bagels, pumpkin cream cheese bagel poppers and pumpkin muffins. Additionally, it is entering the pumpkin drink fray with a new frozen pumpkin latte. It also has launched a new pumpkin scone.
And Juice It Up!, an 85-unit juice and smoothie chain based in Irvine, Calif., is offering Pumpkin Pleasers this fall, made by adding a pumpkin mix to their yogurt-based smoothies.