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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Everyone likes to feel special. One way of demonstrating your specialness is when you go to a fancy restaurant and can order a special dish that isn’t on the menu. It shows you’re in the know. Well it turns out the same thing applies at certain fast food chains. Regulars know they can order combinations that can’t be found on the menu. OK, so it’s not exactly like the lobster risotto at Le Cirque, but as Pat Loeb reports, customers seem to like it.
[ WORKER: Welcome to In-N-Out, may I take your order? ]
PAT LOEB: In-N-Out is a drive-through burger chain in Southern California. It has the shortest of menus: hamburger, cheeseburger, fries and drinks. And yet, you’ll regularly hear other orders . . .
[ CUSTOMER: Alright so I’ll have a veggie burger, grilled cheese plain, 3×3 lettuce-only, one animal fries, two regular fries . . . ]
Things like animal fries — french fries smothered in a secret sauce and onions — are on the not-so-secret menu. It’s on the company’s website, but it makes customers feel special.
DANYELLE FREEDMAN: In these places where you’re waiting in line and you’re grabbing a number, you actually feel like a person because you know something that other people don’t know.
Danyelle Freedman is better known as “restaurant girl,” the name of the blog where she reviews New York restaurants. She’s written about the unlisted ribeye at Nobu. She says the appeal of animal style fries is basically the same thing.
FREEDMAN: It’s the feeling of being important for being a regular and that’s what draws their customers and keeps them coming.
Danyelle says lots of fast food joints have off-the-menu items. Chipotle will make nachos or quesadillas.
Jamba Juice has secret smoothies with catchy names: apple pie, strawberry shortcake, peanut butter and jelly . . .
[ CUSTOMER: Can I get a PBJ?
WORKER EXPLAINS TO HER CO-WORKER: That’s a peanut butter and jelly, it’s on our secret menu . . . ]
BARRY DINSMORE: The myth and the coolness about this secret menu is just right, right where it’s at.
That’s “Banana” Barry Dinsmore, Jamba’s manager of operations. He says the off-the-menu drinks first got popular near colleges. Now the Internet is spreading the word.
He says the secret menu is not something the company created or promoted, but it has turned out to be good for business.
DINSMORE: We couldn’t have forced a secret menu on our customers; it had to come from them. It was created by them and what’s so cool about it is that they feel so connected to the brand and so connected to Jamba and our team that I think it only strengthens the relationship.[ CUSTOMER: I’ll have a pink star . . . ]
In Los Angeles, I’m Pat Loeb for Marketplace.
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