Applebee’s adds Cheetos-flavored wings to the menu

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Photo courtesy Applebee’s

After launching a Cheetos-inspired virtual brand last year, Applebee’s is bringing the snack food flavor to its regular menu for a limited time.

Starting Monday, the participating locations of the casual dining chain will be offering boneless chicken wings tossed in Cheetos Wing Sauce or Cheetos Flamin ‘Hot Wing Sauce and coated with Cheetos crumbs, officially known as Cheetle. Customers can also get fried cheese nibbles in one of the two sauces.

The items are the same as some of those offered by Cosmic Wings, the delivery-only concept Applebee launched in February. Cosmic also sells boned wings, chicken tenders, and side dishes.

The chain has been quiet around Cosmic Wings for the past few months due to supply chain challenges, but Dine Brands CEO John Peyton said on the company’s recent conference call that there will be “meaningful news” about Cosmic Wings in the coming weeks .

It was unclear whether Peyton was referring to the Cheetos menu in the store. But the move seems like a way for Applebee to promote the Cosmic Wings brand to customers.

“Applebee rolled out this new menu in restaurants across the country for a limited time to give diners the opportunity to try Cheetos-coated boneless wings and cheese canapes for dinner or to take away,” Applebee CMO Joel Yashinsky said in a statement. “The Cosmic Wings menu includes even more delivery items such as traditional wings, tender chicken spoons, waffle fries and onion rings.”

It appears to be aimed at the younger audience that has become a core part of the Applebee audience. Approximately 51% of Applebee’s guests are now under 35, and millennials make up the largest segment at 33%, brand president John Cywinski said on the conference call.

The chain will continue to woo its young, social media-savvy diners with the Shirtkin, a T-shirt made from a napkin-like material that customers can use to wipe their Cheetle and sauce-covered fingers while they eat. Shirtkins (pictured below) are reserved for “superfans” engaging with the brand on social media, Applebee said.

Applebees ShirtkinApplebee’s will be giving away the napkin-like shirtkins to fans on social media. / Photo courtesy Applebee’s

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