CHICAGO — Sweets, sides and sauces dominate the American appetite, according to new research from Chicago-based Technomic, Inc.

Krispy Kreme donuts, Olive Garden’s breadsticks and Dairy Queen’s Blizzard ice cream treats were named among drool-inducing dishes in a survey from Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics program, which tracked the performance of 115 national restaurant chains on the attribute “Craveable items I can only get at this restaurant.”

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Eighty-three per cent of consumers said cravings were the main driver for purchasing food away from home at least once a month, according to Technomic. Nearly 96% of consumers who rate a restaurant’s “craveable” items as very good are more likely to return in the near future.

Krispy Kreme, Cold Stone Creamery and Auntie Anne’s were deemed the most craveable chains in the survey. Other top quick-service spots included Dairy Queen and Culver’s. Leading the casual-dining segment was Red Lobster, followed by P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Olive Garden and The Cheesecake Factory. Considered most craveable among fast-casual chains were Zaxby’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Firehouse Subs, Noodles & Co. and Jason’s Deli. Cracker Barrel cracked the lead spot among midscale chains, which also included Waffle House, IHOP, Big Boy and Bob Evans.

Sweet treats, bold flavors, comfort foods and memorable side items hooked most survey participants, who also named Zaxby’s signature sauces, P.F. Chang’s chicken lettuce wraps and Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits among favorites.

Variety and customization also were identified as key attributes of craveable dishes. Chipotle’s burritos and bowls and Cold Stone’s custom ice cream creations allow consumers to satisfy a specific hankering.