Tis the season, as they say, but for chain restaurants (mostly of the fast food variety), the season for what exactly? In order for chains to grow their business, to acquire new patrons as well as keep regulars coming back for more, menu tweaking around the holidays has become a common occurrence. The question happens to be: Is this a good idea, and if so, how much tweaking is too much, and could these holiday offerings, sometimes downright bizarre in nature, actually hurt holiday business?
Traditional holiday treats are usually of the sweet variety. Common Christmas confections include:
hot chocolate (complete with floating marshmallows)
the much maligned fruitcake
Considering these holiday traditions and their often hefty calorie-counts, what better restaurants to capitalize on their own variations than Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, IHOP, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, and Red Mango?
This season, Dairy Queen introduces their Candy Cane Chill Blizzard infused with peppermint and chocolate chunks. Eh.
Jack in the Box has released their seasonal egg nog and pumpkin pie-flavored shakes. Double eh.
Along with their strange newfound bent toward carnival food, IHOP has their creepy clowns shilling a holiday hotcakes line including: "gingerbread pancakes, spiced with ginger and covered with powdered sugar, whipped topping and holiday sprinkles; eggnog pancakes layered with vanilla cream spiked with cinnamon and nutmeg and topped with whipped topping, cinnamon sugar and a drizzle of butter rum sauce; pecan pie pancakes featuring buttermilk pancakes layered with pecan pie filling and served with whipped topping and glazed pecans; and pumpkin pancakes, inspired by the pie, with whipped topping." Oh my...
The quickly dwindling Krispy Kreme donut chain returns with their snowman-shaped donuts, gingerbread crunch topped glazed donut, white-iced with red drizzle, and chocolate-iced with holiday sprinkled donuts all guaranteed to instantly rot your teeth to Dickensian levels.
Dunkin Donuts, now competing more with Starbucks than local donut huts, offers an overly complicated sounding Peppermint Mocha Latte served hot or cold in grande or venti-- er... small, medium, or large.
Perhaps most palatable, and possibly least processed tasting of all, is Dallas-based Red Mango Frozen Yogurt's pumkin spice yogurt with graham cracker topping.
Note to self: A real pumpkin pie is better and very easy to prepare.
1 refrigerated pie crust
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pumkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 15 oz. can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
Heat oven to 425°F. Place crust in 9-inch pie pan.
Combine remaining ingredients. Pour into pan. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 40 more minutes. Stick in fridge.
See? Easy enough. However, if you want something that tastes like it came out of the Enterprise's food replicator; be my guest.
The question: Will these offerings bring much business? Short-run specialty items such as these cost money not only to produce and ship, but most of all to advertise. In a time of shrinking ad budgets, increased DVR commercial skipping, and a return to home-cooked in-home family dining, is all the chain-food money well spent? An interesting question indeed, but if you're looking for taste-bud searing chemical processed treats that allude to the holiday season with all the authenticity of your insurance agent's mass-mailed Christmas card, then drive on thru, but please, bring a couple of activated charcoal tablets and a pack of Alka-Seltzer.