KANSAS CITY – As backyard barbecues, ice-cold lemonade and fresh-picked berries signal the start of summer, restaurant chains are incorporating the familiar flavors into new limited-time offerings.
Spinach, strawberries and other summertime staples are soaring on seasonal menus in quick-service and casual-dining chains. Several brands are offering a tropical twist on core menu mainstays. Sonic Drive-In’s summer slush promotion features a pineapple island breeze flavor, and Qdoba Mexican Grill has added a Mango Mojo menu, including a burrito and salad made with a sauce of mangos infused with crushed red chile peppers. Cracker Barrel captures the campfire experience with two summer offerings, containing beef or chicken roasted with vegetables and corn on the cob and served in foil. Also designed to evoke summer memories is a trio of new frozen yogurt flavors at Pinkberry: banana split, s’mores and watermelon cooler.
Five key flavors in limited-time items span day parts and cuisines, offering the comforts of the season in fresh and innovative ways.
Sweet, spicy or smoky, barbecue sauce shines in new pizzas, sandwiches, burgers and salads.
Pizza Hut has introduced three new barbecue pizzas, each made with a toasted cheddar crust and honey barbecue sauce. Varieties include Blake's Smokehouse BBQ, with hardwood-smoked bacon, smoked ham, and pork; Hawaiian BBQ, featuring smoked ham, pineapple, and green bell peppers; and Honey BBQ Chicken, topped with white-meat chicken, hardwood-smoked bacon, and red onions.
Returning to Quiznos through the summer is a pair of barbecue pulled pork sandwiches. The Southern version comes with mozzarella and cheddar cheese, pickles, yellow mustard and barbecue sauce, while the spicy option has bacon, aged cheddar, cilantro-jalapeño slaw and barbecue sauce on jalapeño cheddar bread.
The Smokehouse Brisket sandwich has returned to Arby’s, featuring thin slices of smoked beef brisket topped with gouda cheese, crispy onions, mayonnaise and barbecue sauce on a bakery-style bun.
Burger King has launched a limited-time Extra Long BBQ Cheeseburger, which includes two patties layered side by side with American cheese, onion rings and barbecue sauce on a sesame seed hoagie bun. The chain also has added honey barbecue chicken strips, marinated and battered in a home-style breading and tossed with a sweet and tangy sauce.
The limited-time Moonshine BBQ menu at Outback Steakhouse includes sirloin, ribs, grilled wings, burger and chopped salad entrees. One item, the Double Moonshine Burger, has two patties topped with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, pickles, mayo, crispy onions, and moonshine barbecue sauce on a grilled brioche bun.
New Angus beef hot dogs from Wienerschnitzel include a barbecue bacon variety, topped with bacon, crispy onion straws and barbecue sauce.
The Colossus Burger at Red Robin features a beef patty piled with smoked brisket, provolone cheese, red and yellow onions and a signature barbecue sauce.
Popping up across day parts, strawberries star in salads, beverages, pancakes and more.
Wendy’s has added for a limited time the Strawberry Fields Chicken salad, which has sliced strawberries, applewood-smoked bacon, crumbled blue cheese, sliced red onion, sunflower seeds and sliced grilled or crispy chicken on a bed of spring mix greens, served with apple balsamic vinaigrette.
New seasonal selections at Cold Stone Creamery include Surrender to Strawberry, strawberry ice cream with strawberries, yellow cake and whipped topping.
IHOP has added new pancake flavors that include strawberry and banana cream pie, raspberry and peach, and blueberry cannoli.
Panera Bread’s summer menu includes several strawberry-studded options. The Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad has chicken breast, romaine lettuce, fresh strawberries, blueberries and pineapple, mandarin oranges, pecans, and fat-free poppyseed dressing. The Strawberry Rhubarb Mini Cake is a mini vanilla cake flecked with fresh strawberry pieces and rhubarb with a crunchy cinnamon crumb topping.
From Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, the new Strawberry and Avocado Salad includes grilled chicken breast, chunks of avocado, strawberry slices, arugula and romaine lettuce with a chili lime vinaigrette dressing. The casual-dining chain also offers a new strawberry lemonade, with sliced strawberries mixed in, and the Fresh Fruit Citronade, which contains strawberries, basil, Absolut Citron vodka and lemonade with a sprinkle of black pepper.
Operators are going green, adding the creamy fruit to salads, sandwiches and more.
Panera Bread has introduced a new Egg White, Avocado & Spinach Power Sandwich, made with egg whites, Vermont white cheddar, fresh avocado, baby spinach, tomato and salt and pepper on the bakery-café’s new sprouted grain bagel flat.
The new Chicken Freshcado at Applebee’s includes a grilled chicken breast topped with avocado, pineapple, peppers, onions, zucchini and cucumbers with white rice.
At Corner Bakery Café, the limited-time Southwest Avocado salad combines avocado, roasted corn tomato salsa and tortilla strips.
Avocado headlines the summer menu at Denny’s, with new entrees that include the Avocado BLT, the Avocado Bacon Omelette, and the Avocado Santa Fe Skillet.
Spinach is flexing its muscle in salads and sandwiches, including the new Spinach & Artichoke Chicken Panini at Einstein Bros. Bagels and Noah’s New York Bagels. Grilled on ciabatta bread, the sandwich includes garlic herb cream cheese, chicken breast, Florentine spinach, roasted artichokes and Asiago and mozzarella cheeses.
Frozen or on the rocks, the classic cooler is making a splash on summer menus.
Blending two summertime sips, the limited-time Arnold Palmer Coolatta at Dunkin’ Donuts is an iced tea and lemonade slush.
A trio of iced beverages is debuting at IHOP for the summer, including iced tea lemonade, orange tangerine iced tea lemonade and cherry blackberry lemonade.
Einstein Noah is adding strawberry lemonade and frozen strawberry lemonade for a limited time. Panera Bread also is offering frozen lemonade.
Returning to Burger King are the frozen lemonade and frozen strawberry lemonade. The frosty beverages join the new Orange Freeze, a limited-time orange-flavored slush.Wienerschnitzel also is offering lemonade in strawberry, cherry, mango and desert pear flavors during the summer.