More about the appeal of LTOs

Our Sept-Oct eNewsletter included an article The lure of LTOs. If you missed it, LTO stands for limited time offer. The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association recentlyretained Dataessentials, a foodservice research company, to discover what makes a successful LTO in the restaurant industry. Here are a few of their findings.

Uniqueness is a critical success factor for LTOs. Consumers say the desire to try something new and different, something they haven't tried before, is the primary motivator when they select a limited time offer. They expect LTOs to stand apart from the regular menu rather than be similar to regular menu items. If they are going to try something new, they want it to be a unique experience.

However, uniqueness can be a tricky thing. If it is too unique, it could turn out to be polarizing, with few consumers willing to try it. Dataessentials found that one way to fit consumers acceptance for uniqueness with high purchase intent was with ethnic and global flavors. Incorporating global flavors into a traditional offering is a way to encourage “safe experimentation.” One example would be ethnic sauce and toppings on a hamburger.

Consumers are most likely to purchase LTOs that center around unique burgers and pizzas. Samples, staff recommendations and item explanations that reduce risk are all important in promoting the purchase of LTOs.

Having an annually recurring LTO such as a seasonal item can be a successful strategy. Two to three months is the ideal length of time for a seasonal offering. It gives customers adequate time to learn about it, try it out, and return again to enjoy it (47% of LTOs ordered are on repeat visits).

LTOs that are seasonal have unique flavors and global flavors can all create excitement that can delight customers and drive visits. According to Restaurant Business magazine, the most craveable LTO for women in October was the hot version of Starbucks' Salted Caramel Mocha; for men it was the cold version.