CHICAGO — Cookies, cakes and other classic sweets remain the top treats among the majority of consumers, but recent research suggests many are seeking innovative new dessert options at the end of a meal. Restaurant operators may boost dessert sales by offering a combination of traditional items and more creative confections, said Technomic, Chicago.

“Refreshing the dessert menu can land a restaurant in that sweet spot of appealing to consumers who love to order their favorites as well as a new set of diners excited about new flavors,” said Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic.

Fifty-eight per cent of desserts are ordered on impulse, and 34% of consumers are more likely to purchase a dessert if a petite portion is available. Miniature desserts appeal in particular to younger consumers, who may order them as snacks, meal replacements or a lower-calorie treat, Technomic said.

Sixty-three per cent of consumers eat desserts at least weekly, according to Technomic. The most preferred desserts are brownies (67%), apple pie (65%) and chocolate cake (59%), and the fast-growing flavors of baked foods among the top 500 restaurant chains are caramel (up 15%), carrot (up 8%) and vanilla (up 6%).

“Brands can’t go wrong with a well-executed brownie or sundae, but they could also pile on the incremental sales if they think up different ways to pitch dessert, from an afternoon pick-me-up to a flight of several small treats,” Ms. Weikel said.

Recent menu launches featuring a twist on traditional treats include the Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich at Carl’s Jr., Carpinteria, Calif., which has vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two halves of a chocolate Ding Dong snack cake. Pie Five, Dallas, introduced for a limited time this year the Monster Brownie Pie, which is layered with Oreo cookies, chocolate brownie and chocolate chip cookie and topped with an icing drizzle. Ben & Jerry’s, South Burlington, Vt., in its ice cream shops rolled out the BRRR-ito, made with two scoops of ice cream — flavors chosen by the customer — topped with fudge sauce and cookie crumbs all rolled up in a soft waffle cone wrap.