Shhh… This is How To Pull Off A Secret Menu At Your Restaurant

By ChowNowMay 27th, 2022

Easy ways to make a secret menu work with your online ordering.

A “secret” online menu could be just what your restaurant needs to give diners a thrill of discovery–while increasing sales and customer loyalty in the process! By simply adding items online that aren’t advertised in store, you’re free to experiment with new dishes and get creative with marketing.

You don’t need much to start a secret menu, but here are our top tips to make yours a success.

Leave a trail of clues.

After all, we don’t want your secret menu to be TOO much of a secret. Maybe your in-store signage provokes curiosity by saying “Follow us online for our secret menu,” or maybe your social media is the first place to find out about new online items coming soon.

If you’re building hype on Instagram like ingrained bakery does, you can even set a countdown that notifies followers when a secret menu item drops. On launch day, make sure to link your online menu to your social media so that your first-to-know diners can also be the first to order.

Remix your crowd-pleasers.

You know what your restaurant is famous for–that one burger or cole slaw that gets added to every order or is mentioned in every review. Why not add a special version of it to your secret menu for those in the know? In-N-Out’s “animal-style” burger is the classic example here!  

Or, try pairing a popular item with a profitable one, and offer it at an “online only” combo price on your secret menu. Not only is it an exclusive deal for your digital diners, you get to move high margin items that are already in stock. Consider it an easy win for everyone.

Use your online ordering to list secret menu items that aren't available to order in store.

Numero Uno Pizza adds secret menu items to their online menu.

Get your timing right.

Make your secret menu seasonal with a farm-to-table focus. If you’re working with ingredients that peak for a month or a few weeks at a time–like certain seafoods or farm-fresh produce—these are quick additions to a menu that are also exciting to diners who crave something new when the weather changes.

Keep the clock ticking.

Create a sense of FOMO by adding a deadline for your limited-time menu. Whether this menu runs for the whole month, or only on Wednesday nights, setting a specific window of opportunity makes it feel a little more exclusive. If diners miss that window, that’s just extra incentive for them to stay glued to your social media, or to visit more often!

Not only does a limited run catch diners’ attention and drive demand, it helps you measure your success across a specific period of time. This allows you to compare sales from previous periods and repeat your success, or adapt for next time.

Simmer, serve, repeat.

The best part about a secret online menu is that you call the shots. After each run of a secret menu, consider what’s working, what diners are loving, and what could be adjusted.

With clever marketing, your online-only offerings can become an opportunity to experiment with new items, highlight your signature dishes, and express your culinary creativity. Soon, your secret menu will become the secret sauce that keeps your diners coming back for more!

Make your secret menu available to order online only, not in store!

Some menu items at Cart’el Street Corn are only available online.

ChowNow’s restaurant success experts are here to help you thrive by optimizing your menu or strategizing your marketing. See what our tools and teams can do for your restaurant with a free demo.

Hannah Bogue is a partnerships restaurant success manager and ChowNow brand ambassador. As a pesto enthusiast with a big sweet tooth, her takeout technique is ordering both savory and sweet so she never has to choose.

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