Menu Management

The Benefits of Having a Speciality Item

By Alex Fainblum

A slice of cake with a rainbow layered interior

Looking for a tasty way to get your restaurant noticed? Add a specialty item to your menu.

Trader Vics did exactly that when they created the Mai Tai in 1944. “In Oakland, The Trader pulled down a bottle of 17 year old Jamaican Rum, added a squeeze of lime, a dash of rock candy syrup, a splash of orange curacao, some French Orgeat and poured the concoction over cracked ice. He handed to a friend visiting from Tahiti who immediately exclaimed, “It’s Mai Tai Roa Ae!” (Tahitian for “Out of this world- The Best”), and the first Mai Tai was born.”

You, too, can find your inner Mai Tai. Here are four benefits to adding a specialty item to your menu.

1. Social Media Props

Everyone loves a good Instagram picture. Everyone loves great food porn on Instagram. Capture mouthwatering shots of your stand out meal and post them all over your restaurant’s Instagram page.

Black Tap in NYC are known for their outrageous milkshakes because of Instagram. From their sweet ‘n’ salty take on the peanut butter shake to their cotton candy topped strawberry malt, Black Tap does it all. With over 280,000 Instagram followers, Black Tap’s customer line keeps on growing.

three milkshakes piled high with cake, cookies and other toppings

2. Free Publicity  

Whether it’s a hybrid creation like a cronut or a rainbow-hued dessert for your Pride Month restaurant celebrations, creating a limited-edition specialty item can ensure you have customers lining up around the block just to give it a taste. And yes – they’ll wait hours if they have to.

Make sure you keep that line moving fast but growing faster – the longer the line, the more free publicity you’ll get. The large crowd will generate word of mouth traffic between customers and anyone who walks by. It’s almost impossible to walk by a line of over 30 people and not be a tad curious about the hype!

Your devoted customers may even spark an interest in a blog or two. Popular food and lifestyle blogs like BlogTO are constantly writing about the industry’s latest and greatest trends. From lists of the best restaurants in the city to articles highlighting signature menu items, any restaurant would be lucky to land a shoutout. And if you offer your customers a free menu item on their birthday, just like how Villa Italian Kitchen has done with their cheese pizza for those born on February 29th as one of their creative leap year marketing ideas, you’ll likely generate buzz online.

Don’t worry about the other menu items – they’ll get the attention they deserve, too. Get enough people talking about your signature dish and it’ll have a ripple effect on your other dishes.

3. Test New Items

If you keep selling out of your specialty item, then you have the information you need to adapt other items on your menu.

Let’s say your restaurant specializes in waffle cones. Add a seasonal twist to your specialty item by making a fall-themed version with some gingerbread flavors or sprinkling some pumpkin spice into your mix. The seasonality aspect has now allowed you to scale up on something you already know is successful.

Is your restaurant popular for its signature dessert crepe? You already know your pastry is a hit. Put a savory spin on your specialty dish to satisfy your customers with a not-so-sweet tooth.

4. Gain a Competitive Edge

Create a specialty item so good it’ll make your competitors wish they had thought of it first. They may try to recreate your masterpiece, but none of those mock ups will compare to your original dish.

And your customers know it –  just ask the creator of edible cookie dough. Edible raw cookie dough is one of the best creations to hit the food industry – thanks to DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections. It’s unclear whether DŌ created the first edible raw cookie dough on the market, but we know for sure they are mastering the market with their creation.

Cookie dough lovers can now find this snack in a handful of shops around the country, but loyal customers will always stand by its origins.

Cookie dough with sprinkles

We know you’ve carefully selected each item on your menu. Put that same passion into creating a specialty item that will get your restaurant noticed and set you apart from all of your competitors.

Photo of Alex Fainblum
by Alex Fainblum

Alex is a Marketing Coordinator at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant dining experiences. She’s a lover of all things chocolate covered but her true passion lies in late-night eating.

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