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NielsenIQ names menu innovation award winners: inspiration for your menu

Awards showcase continued importance of restaurant innovation during the pandemic


Chicago – Taste, mash-ups of existing favourite menu items and snack items are among factors driving diners to spend at U.S. restaurants in 2021 and winners of NielsenIQ BASES Menu Innovation Awards. The list of winners can offer menu inspiration to all restaurant operators.

The awards were created to showcase standout menu innovations in the restaurant industry in the U.S., according to restaurant guest feedback. These innovations were successes that kept guests engaged and returnin, during a difficult year because of the pandemic.

“What was similar among winners was seeing the right idea with the right activation strategy.”

After reviewing more than 100 menu items launched in 2020, 14 met the requirements of being truly relevant (items that guests say they need or want), or truly unique (items that guests find to be truly distinctive) to the restaurant industry.

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In its inaugural year, the BASES Menu Innovation Awards identified several themes underlying restaurant success in a difficult year. Several factors emerged that drove customer demand:

  • Taste
  • Mash-ups of existing favourites
  • More snack items
  • Celebrity partnerships
  • Tapping into new eating occasions: One of these is the huge incremental growth of meal delivery – according to Rakuten Data, in 2020, U.S. restaurants saw a 144 per cent dollar sales increase in delivery sales compared with the same period in 2019. As part of that trend, family meals such as Chick-fil-A’s Build Your Own Family Meal became more important.
  • Wellness

“In light of this extraordinary year, we have seen a surprising number of innovations, that enabled some to not only persevere, but start to see a regular cadence of guests seeking out those menu items,” said Matthew Luff, vice-president, global lead of NielsenIQ BASES Restaurants. “What was similar among winners was seeing the right idea with the right activation strategy.”

The winners of the 2021 NielsenIQ BASES Menu Innovation Award:

Arby’s Crispy Fish Sandwich
Burger King Impossible Croissan-wich
Chick-fil-A Build Your Own Family Meal
Dunkin Planet Oat Oatmilk
El Pollo Loco World’s First Keto Burrito
Jack in the Box Loaded Tiny Tacos
Little Caesars Slices-N-Stix Pizza
McAlister’s Deli Cinnabon Bakery-Inspired Cheesecake
McDonald’s Famous Orders
Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Pizza Hut Big Dipper
Shake Shack Korean-Inspired Chicken Sandwich
Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Burrito
Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Pub Cheeseburger and Chicken Sandwich Duo
The inaugural 2021 BASES Menu Innovation Awards winners are wonderful examples of how restaurants can truly connect with their guests and create disruptive and innovative menu items.

For more information and consultation, visit NeilsonIQ.