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Top Menu Ideas: How to Create a Secret Menu in 5 Easy Steps

June 6th, 2018 Marketing Written by Selena Slavenburg

Among all the menu ideas out there, there’s something about the thrill of “secret menus” at restaurants that people just can’t seem to resist. From In-N-Out’s animal-style everything, to Starbucks’ Fruity Pebbles Frappuccino — secret menus create an exclusive experience that excites customers and gets them coming back.

But fast food chains and coffee shops aren’t the only concepts that can profit off of these menu ideas. One of the most common questions we hear when working with restaurants is: “What marketing strategies can I implement without spending a lot of money?”

Generating buzz organically and at a low cost can be difficult. Creating a “secret menu” for your restaurant is easy to implement, and can be done within a day if you focus your efforts online.

Read on for why creating a “secret menu” is an effective way to boost orders and improve customer loyalty.

Why implement a secret menu?

It’s exclusive.

Examples of innovative menu ideas that go viral

Customers want to feel special. In an increasingly technical world where face-to-face interaction becomes rarer by the day, customers still want to feel like they are a “regular.” Why? Regulars often get perks!

If your customers are using your branded online ordering, they are already loyal to you and this channel offers an easy way to reward them and provide an “exclusive” touch. Even better if that reward is exclusively available on your restaurant’s app and website!


Read our ebook to see how you can use your online ordering customer data to come up with compelling, targeted offers and grow customer loyalty.

Read the eBook


It creates buzz.

Word-of-mouth is powerful, and social proof and peer recommendations are key to the growth of any business. Would you be more inclined to check out a restaurant if their site claimed they had the best burgers in town, or if a friend you trust said their secret menu has the best burger in town? 92% of consumers say — the friend [source]. Give ‘em something to talk about!

It’s free.

If budget is an issue, this is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to implement new marketing. Instead of printing new menus or advertising in a print ad, this new menu is best promoted in a low key way. You can post about it on social media, have staff let customers know about it in the restaurant, even add it to your online menu without saying a word! Use it as an opportunity to offer something new and exciting, and the menu items will sell themselves.

It drives orders where you want them.

Your secret menu can also be a secret weapon for getting your customers to order the highest-margin items in the way that’s most profitable for you. For example, online ordering boosts ticket sizes and requires less labor, so you may want to encourage more customers to order online (if you don’t get charged a commission on every order). If you create a secret menu that’s only available on your commission-free online ordering platform, you can promote it on social media and in-store to move more orders online and grow your profits.

Here's why you need a restaurant ordering app.

How to Set Up a Secret Menu to Boost Online Orders:

Determine your items and menu ideas.

It’s important to pick items that are adventurous but still stay true to your brand. You can approach this in a few different ways: choose items that you’ve tested as a “special” in the past and have sold well, capitalize on a new food trend, or create something new and totally unique. Avocado toast selling out at a neighboring restaurant? Promote “The Ultimate Avocado Toast” on your secret menu.

Have fun with names and descriptions.

Don’t just throw a handful of items up that sound like they could be on your day-to-day menu. This is an opportunity to be creative and mysterious with your menu ideas, and to encourage customers to try something different. Here are some fun examples to get your creative juices flowing:

Secret menu ideas and examples for online ordering

Loop in your staff.

It’s a given that your staff should know about the new items, but you can also take it one step further and ask them to engage customers who have ordered them. This can be as simple as having them ask the customer how they enjoyed the dish, or organizing them to high-five or congratulate a customer for ordering off the secret menu. It’s your show, after all…

Get it online.

The most important, and easiest part of this promotion: get the menu online! 

You can easily create a new menu section and add in your items — if you’re a ChowNow client, it’s possible to do this yourself by signing into your ChowNow Dashboard. Or, you can just email our support team (support@chownow.com) with the menu name and items. Once it’s up, just wait for the orders to start flowing in.

Keep it going.

There’s no time frame for this promotion, so you can keep it running as short or as long as you’d like. I recommend trying out a new tactic to promote your secret menu every few weeks, and allowing time for word to spread. Mention it on social media, bring it up in conversations, or even write a line about it into your to-go menus! The more you promote its presence on your online ordering, the more high-value orders you’ll see coming in.


If you’re a ChowNow restaurant client and want some feedback on your secret menu ideas, schedule a call — we’re happy to help. If you don’t already have online ordering at your restaurant, now’s a great time to get started. Get a free ChowNow demo from one of our experts to get started today!

Selena Slavenburg

Selena Slavenburg is a member of the ChowNow team and on a constant quest — traveling near and far — to find her new favorite restaurant. She grew up in Northern California but is now location-independent, exploring the world and adding her best food finds to her travel blog @finduslost.
Selena Slavenburg

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