PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Did you know there are “secret menus” people are ordering from at a bunch of restaurants now.
They’re called “secret” because you won’t find these items listed on the menu boards.
Everybody likes to be in on a secret, and some companies realize it’s a way to make customers feel special.
“I would like to order the Power Chicken Hummus Bowl,” is what KDKA’s David Highfield said at the counter at Panera.
It’s one of six items the restaurant has on a “hidden” menu.
“If you look around on social media, you’ll definitely see clues and little things mentioning it,” said Emily Lutz from Panera Bread. “But you won’t really see it on our main menu panels.”
Customers with Panera loyalty cards were told about the dishes, which all happen to have a theme of healthful eating. But for anyone without the cards, these dishes are a little bit of a secret.
At Chipotle, David also ordered something you won’t find on the menu: a Quesarito.
“You totally know what I’m talking about?” David asked the employee behind the counter.
“Oh yeah, I know what you’re talking about,” he replied with a smile.
A “Quesarito” is a cheese quesadilla that’s used as the tortilla shell for a burrito, according to the website HackTheMenu.com.
David says the one they made for him was cheesy and delicious.
At McDonald’s, David went through the drive-thru and ordered something that’s mentioned on various websites, but once again, not on the company’s menu.
“Hi. I would like order a Land, Sea and Air Burger,” David said.
David could tell the woman taking orders was a little thrown, but after he explained what it was, she rang it up.
The sandwich is a Big Mac with fish from a Fillet-O-Fish and chicken from a McChicken Sandwich added to it.
It looks a little enormous when you pull it out of the box, but it actually tasted pretty good to David.
So what’s the deal with these secret menus?
HackTheMenu.com is the website we found that may have the most extensive list of secret menus for various restaurants.
If all the cool people are ordering from them, David asked someone in Market Square who looks pretty cool.
Bry Harvey is a Duquesne University student, and sure enough, she knew about the secret menus.
“Have you ordered some of these secret items?” David asked.
“No, I haven’t. I’ve actually been afraid to actually ask for them!” said Harvey.
But plenty of other people are ordering from them, and Point Park University Business Professor Elaine Luther thinks this is good business.
“Because people love to be in the know and have some information that no one else has, they like to feel special,” she said.
A website called “Starbucks Secret Menu” lists everything from a Nutella Frappucino to a cake batter one, which is what David ordered.
He had to explain what it was, but once he did, they made it.
The only secret item “fail” was at a Taco Bell location.
David asked for a Cheesarito, which is cheese, scallions and taco sauce in a soft tortilla, according to online sources.
But after he ordered at the drive-thru, he was politely told that they don’t have that.
Whether it’s restaurants cooking up the ideas, such as Panera’s healthful “hidden” options, or customers creating dishes and posting them online, Luther says it’s a win-win.
“Sometimes the best ideas come from the customer, and they might have something they never even thought of, and the smartest businesses will react to that,” said Luther.
For dessert, David made one final stop: Dairy Queen, where once he again went rogue and ordered a secret item.
“Could I get a Chocolate Chip Blizzard?” he asked at the counter.
Without missing a beat, they made it for me.
Both Starbucks and McDonald’s responded when asked for comments about this, and both said their staffs try to make whatever combination of products customers ask for.