How Do Restaurants Publicize Their Secret Menus?

Mmm, chicken.

Mmm, chicken.

If you’re trying to cut back on your carbohydrate intake, a quick-serve restaurant with the word “Bread” in its name probably isn’t one of your top choices for lunch. What if you knew that the chain Panera has a whole special menu for people like you, full of chicken, steak, hummus, and avocados, without a crumb of bread in sight? Only you probably don’t know, because the dishes are on a not-very-secret secret menu that Panera introduced last year.

If you’re a chain like Panera, why would you start a secret menu in the first place, and how do you get the word out when you do? It’s not like everyone listens to NPR. We’ve long prided ourselves on being one of the leading catalogers of secret items on fast-food menus, and there’s at least one entire blog devoted to the topic.

Secret menus let customers feel like insiders with special information. “They feel kind of a personal connection to the restaurant; they feel they know something that maybe not everybody else does,” a restaurant trade publication editor told NPR. Who doesn’t want to be the holder of special information?

For Panera, the secret menu began as a way to reach bread-shunning customers without having to reprint all of the menu boards, or waste counter space promoting bread-free options. They’ve been getting the word out using e-mails to MyPanera loyalty program members, social media outlets, and…articles like this one.

Interested in a Power Breakfast Egg Bowl With Steak? Ask to see the secret menu at the Panera counter. You’ll get either a nice menu card or a QR code to scan on your mobile phone that will pull up the menu.

Access into Panera’s hidden menu [Panera]
Secret Menus Give Restaurants A Not-So-Secret Boost [NPR]