There’s nothing limiting about limited time offers (LTOs). Not only do they offer operators an opportunity for menu experimentation and creativity, but also for increased sales. And yet a successful limited time offer is not as simple as featuring the latest recipe development idea coming from a creative chef. When operators do due diligence on idea development, operational execution and marketing support, the sky’s the limit on the success of limited time offers.
- Listen. Regardless of how great the idea sounds, success requires a good fit with the customer base. So always start by listening to the customer, and then augment that with information from employees, suppliers, and other industry resources. One way to find interesting combinations that appeal to consumers in your area is to look at menus in other segments, such as fine-dining or sandwich shops.
- Find a fit. The most successful menu ideas provide a good fit with the restaurant concept. For example, when Stone Hearth Pizza (Sudbury, Mass.), a Neopolitan-style pizzeria, added a barbecue chicken pizza, the recipe still featured other ingredients that are regularly used in the restaurant, such as white beans, broccoli rapini and artichokes.
- Start with the ingredients. Guidelines for ingredient selection include:
- Pair on-trend items with familiar ingredients that are already found on the menu (andouille with more traditional meat toppings),
- Choose ingredients that are traditionally paired together (steak & potatoes, beef & bacon),
- Showcase seasonal or regional favorites (locally grown fresh tomatoes, Texas BBQ), and
- Experiment with cheese (regional cheeses or trendy cheeses found on other local menus).
- Plan. Whether a single operation or a large multi-unit, take time for adequate planning and include individuals with responsibility for all functional areas. R&D, marketing, purchasing, operations, training and finance all play an important role in the success of the limited time offer.
- Train employees. Successful execution of an LTO requires training. Back-of-the-house employees need to know how to prepare the new menu item, while front-of-the-house staff must be able to tell the customer about the new menu offering.
- Start with the name. The name, description, and artwork are at the core of creating demand for the LTO. For example, if patrons are hesitant to try a new trendy sounding pizza, call it “flatbread.” And, while fine dining wait staff have the opportunity to explain unfamiliar ingredients, quick-service restaurants may want to include a brief description on the menu, e.g., “prosciutto (ham)”.
- Promote. Regardless of how good the LTO is, customers will only order it if they
are aware of the new menu item and think it sounds delicious. Coupons, direct mail, and email blasts all help to get the word out. However, nothing takes the place of in-store POS and employees who create a mental image of a must-try recipe.
- Track sales. Good sales records are required for evaluating the success of the new menu item, ensuring on-target purchasing, and planning for future LTOs.
To continue this conversation, please leave us a comment at the bottom of this post or email us at BurkeBlog@BurkeCorp.com.