TikTok Secret Menus

The Lempert Report
February 14, 2023

Let's talk about TikTok. Secret menus have been around for a while here in Southern California. Probably the most famous is In and Out Burger. There have been some other ones, but now one of the newest trends on TikTok is that people are posting, you know, whether they be true or not, secret menus, from various, restaurant, food service operations, for example, and it's creating havoc. So for example, waffle House had to post handwritten signs that pleads with their customers to stop ordering a special combo that they had seen on social media. It says, order from the menu. We're not making anything you saw on TikTok. What's going on here? Is this a trend that we need to pay attention to? And what can grocery retailers learn from it? 

Sally: Well, it is interesting that it is wreaking havoc. And yes, in the case of the Waffle House, ordeal, a a woman going through pregnancy, , really craving some Waffle House. And so she, she, she got some waffles and a Texas bacon melt and put it together and made a sandwich and then got 6.3 million views over this. but obviously employees of the Waffle House were not prepared to make this. Now, this sandwich request costs $20. That's a high dollar amount for a Waffle House. And then there are other ones like Chipotle, is dealing with a, an employee who passed along an idea to a food influencer on TikTok, about another, , quesadilla combo that, you know, could be a secret menu idea. And once again, this video got 1.9 million views and the restaurant chain was not prepared to deal with it. 

Sally: However, some have really embraced this. Joe and the Juice has embraced this with one of theirs, and they found out that their tunacota sandwich that somebody posted on TikTok, that their sales of this item rose 58%. So, you know, I think what we're seeing here is an opportunity that maybe some of these restaurant chains haven't prepared for, but if they are able to embrace this and take these menu ideas as something that they can permanently put on their menu, then they might look at some really big sales and a lot more customers. 

Phil: Absolutely. And, and also, let's not forget, in the case of Joe and The Juice, and I'm a fan of that chain, I think it's great. You know, they actually ran out of tuna because they couldn't make enough sandwiches. But also there's a learning here from retailers. For retailers when they look at their food service menus and more retailers have done grocers and so on. What could they do with working with, whether it's TikTok influencers or their own staff to do these kind of "secret menus"? But that they can be prepared, to your point. Also the one that I love, which was not on TikTok, comes from Costco. It's called the Forbidden Costco Food Court Hack, which is basically taking their chicken bake and it's $1.50 hotdog, which is famous, and you basically stuff the hotdog, I'm assuming with the bun but maybe not into the Chicken Bake. The chicken Bake has chunks of grilled chicken, breast, creamy Caesar dressing, green onions, and three types of cheese, Provalone, Parmesan, and Mozzarella, and real bacon pieces throughout. I can't even imagine taking a bite of that by itself yet alone with a hot dog. It just doesn't make a sense to me. 

Sally:Well, you know, as a retailer, some way for them to maybe embrace these TikTok trends is to take some of these menu items, let's say the Waffle House item we were talking about. When something is trending in really popular, maybe putting up an ingredient list and a recipe on their websites and letting their customers know, "Hey, you can make this at home, and maybe you can make it for a little bit cheaper than $20 at the Waffle House."

Phil: I'm sure you can make it a lot cheaper.