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Steal this Idea: Scripting a successful LTO

Differentiation is a major goal when a chain launches a new menu item or limited-time offer. But too much differentiation can backfire, according to Chicago research firm Datassential. “Over-the-top items do not resonate as well with consumers,” says Jana Mann, senior director at Datassential. “Comfort foods with a twist score the highest. These dishes stand out and make a statement but have a base that consumers understand.”

To uncover these insights, Datassential surveyed consumer feedback on about 1,800 LTOs and new items introduced by restaurants between June and October 2014, to gauge those that would perform best. In the five-month period, the top two scorers were both kids’ items: the Cookie Craze Kids Sundae at Friendly’s and the Kids BBQ Chicken Strips with Macaroni & Cheese at Copeland’s, which earned top marks for purchase intent, uniqueness and value. “Kids menus tend to offer a lot of the same, but these items are not quite the norm,” says Mann. “They give families a reason to come to that particular restaurant.”

Wendy’s Build-Your-Own-Sandwich scored third. The reason, believes Mann, is that guests had the chance to customize at a QSR, just as they would at a fast casual. While chocolate always ranks high, says Mann, Bennigan’s Chocolate Lover’s Cake (No. 5 among top scorers) tempts consumers with its descriptive menu language: “Drizzled chocolate icing cascades over four indulgent layers of moist cake and fudge frosting. Piled high, this chocolate lover’s dream is accented with flaky dark chocolate shavings for the ultimate chocolate experience.” Menu items that tell a story resonate with consumers, Datassential finds.

Certain foods prove to be a big draw, time and again. Steak and seafood entrees, breakfast platters with hearty portions of ingredients, wings and fries all are top performers. A final takeaway: “Make sure the menu item fits your segment, and be out there before the competition,” says Mann.

 

Top 10

Chain

Item

Purchase intent

Unique

Draw

Friendly'sCookie Craze Kids Sundae71.040.954.8
Copeland's of New OrleansKids BBQ Chicken Strips with Macaroni & Cheese68.843.251.3
Wendy'sBuild Your Own Sandwich66.843.656.4
Cheddar's Casual CafeMac & Cheese66.427.641.6
Bennigan'sChocolate Lover's Cake64.226.842.8
Bonefish GrillRib-Eye Steak63.822.850.3
Outback SteakhouseSteak & Unlimited Shrimp63.329.760.1
Big BoyJohnny’s Bacon Cheddar Burger63.224.848.2
Cracker BarrelCampfire Chicken63.251.658.7
Coco's Restaurant & BakeryChocolate Silk Pie63.228.440.0

 

Apps

Chain

Item

Purchase intent

Unique

Draw

Back Yard BurgersOnion Rings57.413.833.3
White CastleMozzarella Sticks57.214.428.1
SonicBuffalo Boneless Wings56.619.842.1
SonicBBQ Boneless Wings56.418.444.9
Red RobinGarlic Herbed Fries53.435.830.4
Papa Murphy'sThick ‘n’ Cheesy Homebaked Bread52.827.830.2
El Chico CafeTaco Fries51.245.845.9
Gordon Biersch Brewery RestaurantLegendary Garlic Fries51.034.831.9
Longhorn SteakhousePrime Time Spicy Chicken Bites50.629.844.3
Hooter'sTex Mex Nachos50.621.637.6
Ninety Nine Restaurant & PubRoast Beef Pub Dip57.230.244.1
Tim Horton'sCrispy Chicken Sandwich55.418.636.2
Quik TripSliced Chicken Breast Croissant53.225.237.6
Wendy'sBBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich52.819.645.8
7-ElevenPub Classic Roast Beef Sandwich52.223.038.3
Village InnMeat Lover's Big Grilled Cheese52.037.242.9
SubwayBig Hot Pastrami Melt51.628.448.7
Baker's SquareOpen Faced Pot Roast Sandwich51.231.242.7
Holiday Station StoresHomestyle Chicken Fillet51.014.031.8
Tim Horton'sChipotle Angus Steak Melt Panini50.431.842.6

 

Sandwiches

Chain

Item

Purchase intent

Unique

Draw

Ninety Nine Restaurant & PubRoast Beef Pub Dip57.230.244.1
Tim Horton'sCrispy Chicken Sandwich55.418.636.2
Quik TripSliced Chicken Breast Croissant53.225.237.6
Wendy'sBBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich52.819.645.8
7-ElevenPub Classic Roast Beef Sandwich52.223.038.3
Village InnMeat Lover's Big Grilled Cheese52.037.242.9
SubwayBig Hot Pastrami Melt51.628.448.7
Baker's SquareOpen Faced Pot Roast Sandwich51.231.242.7
Holiday Station StoresHomestyle Chicken Fillet51.014.031.8
Tim Horton'sChipotle Angus Steak Melt Panini50.431.842.6

 

Breakfast

Chain

Item

Purchase intent

Unique

Draw

Village InnUltimate Skillet55.225.441.1
Cracker BarrelUncle Herschel's Favorite52.223.239.5
Perkin'sBelgian Waffle Platter50.024.435.3
Village InnChicken Fried Steak & Eggs48.022.842.6
Taco BellCountry Grilled Breakfast Burrito48.024.038.8
Taco BellCountry A.M. Crunchwrap47.244.646.3
Village InnCountry Sausage Skillet46.222.835.7
Perkin'sPumpkin Pie Pancake Platter45.440.448.5
Cracker BarrelTwo Eggs n' Biscuits45.212.226.3
Coco's Restaurant & BakeryLingonberry Cheese Blintz German-Style Pancakes Combo43.649.851.2

 

Alcoholic Beverages

Chain

Item

Purchase intent

Unique

Draw

Granite City Food & BreweryApple Cobbler56.221.032.8
Old ChicagoTailgate Punch37.829.233.6
Bahama BreezePineapple Mojito37.034.240.8
Bahama BreezeStrawberry Mojito35.628.833.7
Bahama BreezeRaspberry Mojito33.630.432.8
Outback SteakhouseAngry Orchard Hard Cider33.422.423.9
Ninety Nine Restaurant & PubJack Daniel’s Honey Lemonade33.238.632.7
Carrabba's Italian GrillChianti Kiss33.042.231.2
Olive GardenSangarita32.825.634.6
Outback SteakhouseBlood Orange Rita32.637.436.1

 

Dessert

Chain

Item

Purchase intent

Unique

Draw

Bennigan'sChocolate Lover’s Cake64.242.829.0
Coco's Restaurant & BakeryChocolate Silk Pie63.240.0-
Cracker BarrelCarrot Cake57.433.940.2
Perkin'sCaramel Apple Pie57.041.336.4
Baker's SquarePumpkin Pie with Real Whipped Cream54.632.9-
Coco's Restaurant & BakeryDark Chocolate Chip Cheese54.044.3-
Gordon Biersch Brewery RestaurantBlack Forest Cake54.037.8-
Friendly'sApple Pie a la Mode Ice Cream53.035.548.2
Ninety Nine Restaurant & PubChocolate Chip Cookie Pie53.038.756.6
Coco's Restaurant & BakeryCaramel Apple Harvest52.839.7-

 

Entrees

Chain

Item

Purchase intent

Unique

Draw

Cumberland FarmsCustomize Your Own Pizza60.028.246.8
Longhorn SteakhouseApple Cider Baby Back Ribs59.837.849.8
Papa John'sUltimate Meats Pizza59.018.049.1
Famous Dave'sHickory-Smoked Steak59.030.847.2
Champps AmericanaParmesan Crusted Chicken Fettuccine58.825.236.7
Ninety Nine Restaurant & PubSliced Sirloin58.421.242.7
Longhorn SteakhouseSmoky Double Bacon Sirloin58.242.056.0
Coco's Restaurant & BakerySteak & Lobster57.819.858.5
Longhorn SteakhouseHarvest Mushroom Filet57.229.449.1
Old ChicagoMeat Me Pizza54.831.848.4

Note: These charts show rankings for three of the six criteria measured by Datassential

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