Menu Management

Should Your Restaurant Have a Secret Menu?

By Jackie Prange

A chef serving a covered plate

Social media has always been quick to feature the hottest food trends, but the latest craze to hit our newsfeeds? Shh… it’s a secret!

It’s the Secret Menu; a fun and engaging way for restaurants to drive buzz and traffic. Lucky for you, we’ve done some recon and gathered everything you need to know in order to capitalize on this mysterious, yet successful trend.

What Is a Secret Menu?

The name says it all. Secret menus have become home to a variety of unofficial and unadvertised foodie favorites. You won’t find a secret menu displayed in a venue, but when ordered, these restaurants will happily whip up these private plates, which are fun variations of existing menu items. Think a burger patty topped with a fried egg and a spread of peanut butter, or an ice cream cone topped with torched meringue, sprinkled with Lucky Charms cereal.

The History of the Secret Menu

Originally, the secret menu was devised by customers who created fun and sometimes obnoxious concoctions from classic menu items for their own entertainment. These creations were then passed onto others by good ol’ word of mouth. Soon after, restaurants began hopping on the bandwagon and spreading the news of their own secret menu items via social media. Now, secret menus have gone mainstream, presenting restaurateurs with a genius new marketing ploy.

Who’s Doing It Right?

Both chain and independent restaurants have witnessed great success from the secret menu hype. Feast your eyes on a few of their creations:

The “Big Cheeses”


“Pink Drink”: Strawberry acai refresher with coconut milk.

In-N-Out Burger

“Animal Style Fries”: Hot french fries layered with cheese and secret spread, topped with grilled onions.

Taco Bell

“The Superman”: A cheesy double beef burrito topped with extra potatoes, sour cream, guacamole, and crispy tortilla strips. 

The “Small Fries”

Eva’s Original Chimneys

“Chips Ahoy! Thins Cookie Cone”: An ice cream filled, cinnamon sugar chimney cone, layered with cookie crumbles and organic cocoa drizzle, topped off with a Chocolate Chips Ahoy! cookie.

The Burger’s Priest

“The Pope”: A cheeseburger with cheese-stuffed, Panko-crusted portobello mushroom caps and an extra patty.

Bruxie Waffles 
“Elvis Bruxie”: A waffle sandwich filled with peanut butter, bacon and bananas – the King’s favorite combo.

Should I Offer a Secret Menu?

Long answer short: Yes. Your customers learn by word of mouth, and secret menus are help to spread the word about your restaurant.

Your key to benefitting from the buzz secret menus can create is in these two words: social media. So be sure to feature your secret offerings on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or any other platform your heart desires, to get the word out there. This is your chance to have a little fun with your menu. Fries and gravy won’t have customers in a mad dash to your venue, but “Eyes on the Fries” featuring cheese curds and a “secret sauce”, paired with a high quality image, sure would. Likewise, you could try introducing a sprinkle of locally sourced ingredients, like “foraged chanterelle mushroom pizza”. What does foraging mean, you might be wondering? It means adding a local flair to your dishes by using fresh, wild ingredients – another fun way to spice up your secret menu!

By introducing mouthwatering dishes that are limited to a secret menu, you’re playing on your customers’ desire for the latest, greatest, exclusive experience – one they surely won’t be able to pass up.

For secret menu inspiration, follow Off the Menu on Instagram.

Photo of Jackie Prange
by Jackie Prange

Jackie was a Content Marketing Specialist and Social Media strategist at TouchBistro before moving into business development role. She covered the latest food, dining, and technology trends for the restaurant industry. A lover of all things coffee, Jackie’s hobbies include breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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