KANSAS CITY — The evolution of restaurant flavors continues, as sweet collaborations and globally-inspired offerings take up more space on menus.

In November 2022, restaurant review platform Yelp compiled popular keywords and phrases to determine its 10 picks for 2023 food and beverage trends. Yelp noted frozen drinks and nostalgic options were on the rise, with “slushie” searches up 77% and fast-food searches up 90%.

After eight years and petitions from fans, Del Taco brought back its orange and cream shake. The limited-edition shake features a blend of vanilla and Fanta Orange and will be on Del Taco's menu until mid-April 2023. Also bringing back a nostalgic fan-favorite is McDonald’s. The fast-food chain re-introduced its cheese Danish, which was first introduced in the 1980s.

Sweet collaborations are also hot on menus as foodservice locations partner with consumer packaged goods companies.

Krispy Kreme, Inc. added its Biscoff line of donuts to US locations for the first time. The line, created in a collaboration with Lotus Bakeries, features three Biscoff cookie and cookie butter-inspired donuts.

“Our donuts made with Lotus Biscoff are popular around the world and it’s definitely time for our US fans to get a taste,” said Dave Skena, global chief brand officer at Krispy Kreme. “Both donut and cookie lovers will be amazed by this delicious combination.”

In other collaborations, Papa Johns partnered with Mondelez International’s Oreo brand to debut Oreo Cookie Papa Bites, which are formulated with a dough that is stuffed with chocolate cookie crumbles and served with a sweet icing for dipping. Carvel also added a line of Kit Kat Duo-themed items in a partnership with the Hershey Co.’s brand. The line featured two Sundae Dashers, which were made with either strawberry or mint soft serve, then layered with hot fudge, whipped cream and chopped Kit Kats.

On the savory side, menu items with globally inspired flavors are taking off. The market research firm Datassential is predicting a rise of Asian-inspired flavors as part of its annual FoodBytes report.

Zaxby’s Asian “Zensation Zalad” is making a limited time return to menus. The salad features fried or grilled chicken tenders, mixed greens, red cabbage, carrots and wonton strips, which is then topped with Asian slaw, honey sesame Teriyaki glaze, and served with a citrus vinaigrette dressing and a vegetable egg roll.

“The Asian Zensation Zalad is one of the most requested products from guests and a salad that you just can’t find anywhere else,” said Patrick Schwing, chief marketing and strategy officer at Zaxby’s. “So, to start 2023, we are bringing back this fan-favorite, complete with an egg roll on the side.”

Datassential also noted Latin American influences are expected to trend in 2023. The market research firm predicted the demand for birria, a meat stew traditionally from the Mexican state of Jalisco, will stay in demand. Yelp reported an increased interest in the dish in 2021, and the presence of birria on menus has only increased.

Quick-service Mexican restaurant Qdoba introduced its take on the dish with brisket birria, which is slow cooked for 10 hours in chiles and garlic. Consumers can create their own combination with the birria or can choose from the quesabirria quesadilla or the quesabirria burrito.

“My travels across Mexico inspired me to create the flavorful and tender brisket birria dish and bring the authentic and delicious flavors of Mexican street food to our restaurants,” said Katy Velazquez, executive chef at Qdoba. “Unique to the industry, pairing our flavor-forward brisket birria with all of the cheesy goodness of our Signature 3-cheese queso will satisfy anyone’s birria craving.”

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