Pumped-up preparation

Where there’s smoke, there are sales.

“Smoking suggests expertise, flavor, a level of professionalism,” Ms. Kruse said, pointing to several examples at top quick-service chains, including Chick-fil-A’s Smokehouse BBQ Bacon sandwich and KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ Chicken.

KFC Smoky Mountain BBQ ChickenBar menus are on fire, too, she added, citing TGI Fridays’ Flaming Old Fashioned cocktail, topped with a scorching sugar cube.

Restaurant operators also may consider unexpected sauces, Ms. Kruse said, suggesting a slather of trendy Alabama white barbecue sauce for a tangy twist on traditional chicken wings.

What’s ahead? Expect a growing focus on global and regional barbecue, Ms. Kruse said.

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