KANSAS CITY — Menus at quick-service restaurants (QSRs) continue to add offerings, a sign the restaurant industry is recovering from pandemic-related losses.

In a report from market researcher Circana, which was formed after a merger between IRI and The NPD Group, visits to QSR locations rose by 3% during April 2023 compared to visits from a year ago. In another positive outlook, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) forecast 2023 restaurant sales could reach $997 billion, which is up 11% from what was estimated for 2022.

Capitalizing on the positive outlooks for 2023 is Yum! Brands, Inc., which is the parent company of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell. New introductions to the company’s subsidiaries are falling into new consumption occasions, according to executives during a May 3 earnings call.

Moving toward individual meals is Pizza Hut, who introduced Melts in October 2022, and recently added a cheesesteak variety to its menus, which features sirloin steak strips, melted cheese and savory toppings, which are baked into a crust and topped with butter and Parmesan oregano seasoning. KFC also has expanded its menu with individual meals, such as chicken nuggets, sandwiches and wraps.

“Our goal obviously is to be there for our customers for every occasion, not just for family meals or just for individual meals,” Mr. Gibbs said during the call. “Pizza Hut has a very conscious strategy.”

Other brands seeing benefits from ambitious corporate plans include Restaurant Brands International, Inc.’s Burger King business unit. In September 2022, the company began its Reclaim the Flame plan for Burger King, which has driven growth in the recent quarter, according to the company. Burger King brought back its melts, which were first introduced in 2020, and added spicy chicken fries to its menus.

McDonald’s is working on improving its current products, with a reformulation tweaking its Big Mac sandwich, McDouble burger, classic cheeseburger, double cheeseburger and hamburger. Changes to its classic burgers include a softer bun, meltier cheese, adding white onions to burger patties while they’re still on the grill and more Big Mac sauce on the burger.

“I'll always remember my first burger from McDonald's,” said Chef Chad Schafer, senior director of culinary innovation at McDonald's USA when the changes were announced. “And now my culinary team and I have the best job in the world: thinking about ways to bring even more of that iconic McDonald’s taste to fans. We found that small changes, like tweaking our process to get hotter, meltier cheese and adjusting our grill settings for a better sear, added up to a big difference in making our burgers more flavorful than ever.”

Click to view recent QSR introductions.