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LTOMG: How to Help Your Limited-Time Offers Stand Out

Guests are eating up limited time offers like never before. LTOs reached a new two-year high in December 20221  and 65% of consumers are motivated to visit an operation specifically for an LTO.2 Those are big indicators that now’s the time to nail down your LTO strategy. But where should you start?

Step 1: Know What Wins

According to Datassential, an LTO’s success comes down to five key factors3:

  • Easy for staff to learn how to make
  • Uses ingredients that are already on hand
  • Aligns closely with current menu
  • Requires minimal storage and space on prep line
  • Feels truly original and new

To address these five factors while also delighting guests, the ideal LTO will likely fall into the “new but familiar” camp. Sticking with existing ingredients and keeping the prep relatively simple means the dish will fit nicely into your back-of-house flow. Looking at it from a patron’s point of view, consumers are more likely to try a twist on a dish they’re accustomed to, like a burger or pizza.3 By offering a unique and exciting take on a format your guests already know, love and expect, you’ll increase their interest in trying an LTO.

Step 2: Don’t Stop at Seasonal

Seasonal and holiday-based LTOs are a no-brainer, but to really gain traction, consider adding even more limited-release occasions to your calendar.  These top 10 consumer purchase drivers3 can inspire your next big LTO any time of year:

  • Fresh ingredients
  • Premium/high-quality ingredients
  • New/unique flavors
  • Seasonal flavors
  • New twist on a familiar dish
  • Ingredients that are rarely available or hard to get
  • Nostalgic items
  • Regional or local flavor profiles
  • Hand-crafted items
  • Indulgent over-the-top items

Drilling down a bit more, milkshakes occupy the top spot for beverage LTOs. Food-wise, burgers take first, with sandwiches, pizza, meat entrees and appetizers not far behind.3

Keeping the above trends in mind, take a look at your menu and pay special attention to any signature dishes or ingredients. First, decide which ones you’re most comfortable tweaking. Then experiment with sauces, seasonings, toppings and prep styles until you have a new dish that feels unique to your operation. By observing sales figures and guest feedback, you can optimize your process for future LTOs.

Step 3: Maximize Ingredients

An LTO program thrives when it can consistently call upon a small number of key ingredients for a wide range of dishes. That’s why it’s so crucial to take stock of your go-to ingredients and consider which ones can become versatility rock stars. Take cheese sauce for example, AFP advanced food products llc makes a line of cheese sauces that are shelf stable and have a long shelf-life. They can also help many dishes go from average to irresistible with very little effort. Here are just a few ways you can create LTO heroes with this one ingredient:

  • Dress up classic mac and cheese by using jalapeno cheese sauce, bacon and fresh jalapenos, or by going with chicken and buffalo sauce.
    • Bonus twist: Let either of these mac and cheese varieties moonlight as a burger topping.
  • Serve a reimagined pizza by swapping standard shredded cheese for a jalapeno cheese sauce kick.

Step 4: Show It Off

Once you’ve curated your new LTOs, remember that 3 in 10 consumers are driven to try an LTO because it looked appealing in an ad or store photo.3 Consider color contrast, texture and presentation when building and marketing your newest dishes. Then be sure to grab a few flattering photos and create buzz by posting to your social media channels and anywhere else that will get mouths watering.

Craving a collaborative partner to help with your next LTO? Reach out to AFP today or find more recipe inspiration here.


1Technomic Q4 2022 Quarterly LTO Review


3Datassential SNAP! Keynote LTOs Report

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