Travel can be an inspirational way to generate menu ideas, but it’s not always possible for chefs and operators to globetrot on tasting trips.
Technomic’s quarterly Global Menu Innovation report tracks new and noteworthy menu items from 25 countries around the world—making it possible to get a taste of the trends without hopping on a plane. The most recent roundup features creative spins on tacos, sandwiches, pizza, plant-based dishes and more on chain menus.
We zeroed in on 10 items that tap into the top trends.
Portable handhelds are a growing trend worldwide for to-go and delivery-friendly food. Domino’s in Germany developed a more compact version of the Italian calzone, calling the minis “calzini.” Filling choices include salami, ham with peppers and spinach and mushroom—pizza topping ingredients that can be cross-utilized.
Who says tacos have to be filled with Tex-Mex ingredients? Australian chain Schnitz fills tortillas with a range of international flavors. For this LTO, the breaded cutlets known as schnitzel come in beef, chicken and veggie proteins and sport Japanese, Hawaiian, Moroccan and other flavor profiles.
Royal Plant Barbecue
Outback Steakhouse, Brazil
Brazil is a nation of carnivores, but meat-centric Outback Steakhouse is menuing a special made with a plant-based meat alternative. Royal Plant Barbecue is prepared with a mix of vegan proteins accented by smoked flavor, then breaded and formed into portions. The dish is finished with a barbecue sauce and served with a side of fries.
Sbarro appeals to local tastes by adapting pizza to a signature in Indian cuisine: foods cooked in the traditional tandoor ovens. The pizza is topped with paneer or grilled chicken, onion and green and red peppers, infused with classic tandoor flavor. It demonstrates how pizza can be a blank canvas for any number of global spins.
Wendy’s has made a big push for breakfast in the U.S., with American favorites like French toast sticks and egg sandwiches. But in the Philippines, rice is an important staple and these rice bowls topped with hearty ingredients are more in sync with that cuisine. Choices include Honey BBQ Tapa Rice Bowl with meat and a fried egg and Bacon Mushroom Melt Rice Bowl with cheese and egg.
Crackin’ Thin Crust
Pizza Hut, Malaysia
Crust innovation is a point of differentiation for pizza chains in the U.S., but this ultra-thin crackly crust isn’t on our radar yet. Pizza Hut in Malaysia uses what it calls “4KRAKKK technology” to create the crispy ½-centimeter-thick crust, which bakes up with a crunchy cheddar edge.
Egg Shakshuka Bun
Eeten Urban Kitchen, UAE
Eeten Urban Kitchen, a concept in the United Arab Republic, turned shakshuka into a portable breakfast sandwich that fits any daypart. Mediterranean-inspired shakshuka, with its saucy base of peppers, onions, tomatoes and spices topped with poached eggs, is usually served plated with a fork and spoon. But here the saucy mixture is piled on a brioche bun, then topped with over-easy eggs and grilled halloumi cheese.
Juan Valdez Cafe, Chile
Hazelnut and almond are more typical flavors for coffee drinks, but at Chile’s Juan Valdez Cafes, a trio of walnut beverages ran as a limited-time offer. Billed as “creamy walnut temptations,” the chain offers a walnut-infused hot and cold latte and a blended coffee drink—all topped with chopped walnuts.
Bad-Ass Breakfast Waffles
Lexi’s Healthy Eatery, South Africa
At this health-centric concept in South Africa, tofu replaces eggs to create a vegetarian all-day savory waffle. The plant-forward item starts with high-protein waffles that are topped with scrambled tofu, smashed avocado, hollandaise, sumac and sesame seeds, creating a craveable balance of healthy and indulgent.
A Little Bit Bitter
American doughnut fans gravitate toward sweet rather than bitter, but Dunkin’ in Thailand promoted the bitterness of chocolate as a selling point for an LTO. Four varieties are on offer: Black Bitter, Choco Zebra, Soft Rocky Cookie and Black Sprinkle, all flavored with dark chocolate. The menu description touts the bitter chocolate as a foil to the sweet doughnuts.