As winter edged into spring, limited-time offers tapped into seasonal flavors and ingredients. While breakfast sandwiches and chocolate cake ranked high in purchase intent among consumers in March, coffee drinks and sweet beverages won points for uniqueness. Innovative brunch items also generated excitement. These more unique LTOs have the ability to create buzz and differentiate the menu, says Lauren Hallow, consumer insights manager for Technomic.
Click ahead to see the 10 most unique limited-time offers at chains from February through March, as indicated by potential purchasers in Technomic’s Ignite menu concept development survey. (The canvass of 500 consumers for 100 or more LTOs shows which are most unique based on the item’s name and description. Results are rounded to the nearest whole number.)
10. Iced Toffee Nut Caramelicious
Scooter’s Coffee debuted a coffee drink that can double as a dessert. The description is packed with appealing details: “Sweet toffee and velvety caramel sauce is combined with our world-class espresso, milk and a touch of mellow nuttiness, topped with whipped cream and delectable toffee nut crumbles.” That indulgent messaging spurred 70% of potential purchasers to single out the beverage as unique.
9. Italian Breakfast Panini
Maggiano’s Little Italy regularly adds new items to its revamped brunch menu. This Italian Breakfast Panini LTO joined the lineup in March, and 71% of potential purchasers said they found it unique. The ingredients include ham, fried egg, fontina cheese, oven-dried tomatoes, arugula, Calabrian oil and crispy Vesuvio potatoes. The panini also ranked high in craveability with 59% of potential purchasers.
8. Sweet Potato Crusted Fresh Haddock
This LTO from Ninety Nine Restaurants stood out as the only dinner entree in the top 10. The description played up local sourcing, freshness of ingredients and a chef-driven preparation, characteristics that enticed 71% of consumers to single it out as unique. The dish features fresh North Atlantic haddock fillet straight off the boat from Gloucester, Mass., close to the chain’s major locations. The fish is crusted with sweet potato crumbs, then oven-roasted and served with tropical fruit salsa.
7. Dipped Strawberry made with Ghirardelli Blizzard Treat
Despite chilly weather, consumers gravitated toward iced drinks and frozen desserts in March. Dairy Queen’s riff on its popular blizzard included chunks of Ghirardelli chocolate, real strawberry topping and the chain’s signature soft serve. This LTO was deemed unique by 71% of potential purchasers.
6. Cherry Cordial with Kisses
Another ice cream treat that enticed consumers was the Cherry Cordial with Kisses from Baskin-Robbins. Seventy-one percent of potential purchasers scored it high for uniqueness based on this fairly simple description: “Hershey's chocolate ice cream with mini Hershey's Kisses and a cherry ribbon.” It seems that branded candies resonated with the respondents taking the survey.
5. Lobster and Applewood-Smoked Bacon Benedict
Along with its breakfast panini, Maggiano’s ran this eggs Benedict variation as an LTO on the brunch menu. The combination of lobster, bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise on a toasted English muffin appealed to 71% of potential purchasers as unique. The hearty preparation was sided by Maggiano’s signature Vesuvio potatoes.
4. Golden Chai Latte
Operators are capitalizing on the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric by incorporating it into food and beverage items, especially lattes. Biggby Coffee jumped on the trend with its Golden Chai Latte. It’s made with chai, turmeric syrup, velvetized milk and a cinnamon garnish—a blend of ingredients that 71% of potential purchasers found unique.
3. Bed of Roses
No doubt the intriguing name of this LTO motivated respondents to dig deeper. The description reveals that it’s a drink made with sparkling red wine, amaretto, Cointreau and cranberry. That mix of ingredients, plus the clever name, convinced 72% of potential purchasers to call out the Bed of Roses as unique. Maggiano’s debuted this item in tandem with Valentine’s Day, but it stayed on the brunch menu afterwards.
2. Iced Cherry Mocha
Another frosty beverage gained points with respondents, with 74% of potential purchasers naming Starbucks’ Iced Cherry Mocha a unique LTO. Here’s the exact description of this coffee drink: “Our cherry treat-inspired mocha combines our signature espresso, mocha sauce and cherry flavored syrup, topped with cocoa sprinkles.” The Iced Cherry Mocha, which ran concurrently with Starbucks’ hot Cherry Mocha, topped the latter in uniqueness by 6 percentage points.
1. Frozen Golden Chai Latte
Here again, an icy beverage outpaced its hot counterpart even though winter was still in full swing. Biggby’s Frozen Golden Chai Latte came in at No. 1 for uniqueness, earning that spot with 76% of potential purchasers. It contains the same better-for-you ingredients whether served hot or cold: chai, turmeric syrup, velvetized milk and cinnamon garnish. It seems that weather doesn’t have an effect on iced coffee and tea preferences, especially among younger consumers. Gen Z and millennials are more likely to order iced coffee drinks and cold brew, finds Technomic’s Beverage Consumer Trend Report.