Consumers love dessert: 63 percent indulge at least once a week. While most customers tend to favor standard sweets like cookies, cakes and pies, many seek to finish their restaurant meals with something new, according to Technomic's Dessert Consumer Trend Report. The study encourages foodservice brands to strike a balance between traditional and more innovative offerings, such as miniature desserts that appeal to younger consumers ordering them as snacks, meal replacements or a lower-calorie treat.

Incremental dessert sales, and thus higher check averages, could result from brands taking risks and putting a new twist on an old standby, such as the Boston Kreme Croissant Donut at Dunkin' Donuts or the Strawberry Nachos at Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, the report indicates.

"Refreshing the dessert menu can land a restaurant in that sweet spot of appealing to consumers who love to order their favorites as well as a new set of diners excited about new flavors," says Kelly Weikel, Technomic director of consumer insights. "Brands can't go wrong with a well-executed brownie or sundae, but they could also pile on the incremental sales if they think up different ways to pitch dessert, from an afternoon pick-me-up to a flight of several small treats."

The Dessert Consumer Trend Report also reveals:

58 percent of desserts are purchased on impulse;

34 percent of consumers say they are more likely to order dessert if a smaller-portion option is available;

Today's most preferred desserts are brownies (67 percent), apple pie (65 percent) and chocolate cake (59 percent);

Among Top 500 chains, caramel, carrot and vanilla are the fastest-growing flavors of baked goods.