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If the thought of indulging your sweet tooth with a vanilla ice cream shake made with an actual slice of apple pie makes you want to stop in your culinary tracks and head to the nearest Johnny Rockets, well, that's the point.

Hoping to increase sales and traffic in their restaurants, fast-food and fast-casual operators are cranking up the menu innovation to produce items that stray from the gastronomic norm.

"The pace of innovation has increased dramatically over the past five years," said Darren Tristano, an executive vice president at Technomic, a market research firm. "Consumer preferences are changing more rapidly, product life cycles are shortening and restaurants are on the constant prowl for new, innovative flavor profiles."

Many of these items are offered only for a limited time, which encourages customers to get them while they're still hot (and available.) They're also often geared toward attracting younger pockets.

Click ahead to see some of the most interesting innovations coming out from restaurants' test kitchens.

—By CNBC's Katie Little. Follow her on Twitter at @KatieLittle

Posted 18 May 2013

Roberto A Sanchez | E+ | Getty Images