Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development




By Mike Kostyo

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Brian Brindza

One of the most appealing aspects of a walking taco is the playful, build-your-own nature of the dish, as you layer your favorite ingredients into a small to-go bag. But how does a national quick-serve chain accomplish this same interactivity at scale—and on a pizza? For Brian Brindza, Director of Culinary & Menu Innovation at Toppers Pizza, the solution meant thinking outside of the box—with two boxes.

For the Walking Taco Topper Pizza, the first box contains a pizza build that features an elevated al pastor sauce with notes of charred pineapple, guajillo, pasilla, cayenne and chipotle peppers, and a finish of Mexican oregano and cumin. It’s topped with seasoned taco meat (beef and pork) and a Wisconsin mozzarella-cheddar blend. Inside the second box are the pizza garnishes: lettuce, tomatoes, nacho cheese-flavored Doritos and sour cream, giving customers that must-have hands-on customization element. The inspired pizza build “performed way above average for a limited-time offering,” says Brindza. “The first day it was launched, it was our top-selling house pizza, which had never happened before. What really drives the flavor home is the finishing touch of Doritos.”


About The Author

Mike Kostyo

Mike Kostyo is the VP of Menu Matters, a private consultancy that works with foodservice professionals to analyze, understand and leverage food and beverage, industry and consumer trends. Kostyo has been a recurring guest on Fusion TV’s “The A.V. Club” show; has been featured on NBC News, CBS Radio and Gimlet Media’s “Why We Eat What We Eat” podcast; is regularly featured in newspapers and magazines; speaks at numerous conferences across the country; and was a judge on Food Network’s “Eating America.” For over a decade, he was the resident Trendologist and an Associate Director at Datassential, one of the food industry's leading insights companies. Kostyo has a master’s in Gastronomy from Boston University, plus certificates in the culinary arts, baking arts, wine and artisan cheese production. He is a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu and can be reached at [email protected].