Where there’s smoke, there are sales.
“Smoking suggests expertise, flavor, a level of professionalism,” Kruse said, pointing to several examples at top quick-service chains, including Chick-fil-A’s Smokehouse BBQ Bacon sandwich and KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ Chicken.
Bar menus are on fire, too, she added, citing TGI Fridays’ Flaming Old Fashioned cocktail, topped with a scorching sugar cube.
Restaurant operators also may consider unexpected sauces, Kruse said, suggesting a slather of trendy Alabama white barbecue sauce for a tangy twist on traditional chicken wings.
What’s ahead? Expect a growing focus on global and regional barbecue, Kruse said.