Both savory and sweet menu items found favor with consumers this spring. Tops in craveability on the savory side were limited-time offers featuring seafood and bacon, while banana and caramel were the trending flavors in sweets.
Click ahead to see the 10 most craveable LTOs at chains from April through May, 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 they considered most craveable based on the item’s name and description. Results are rounded to the nearest whole number.) Items with high craveability scores can indicate an increase in sales, says Lauren Hallow, consumer insights manager for Technomic.
10. Mediterranean Sunrise
Salty, creamy and herbal flavors compete for attention in this breakfast sandwich from Bruegger’s Bagels—a combination that 77% of potential purchasers found craveable. The Mediterranean-inspired bagel sandwich is described as having all the elements of fresh summer flavor: salty feta cheese spread, well-seasoned salami, sweet red peppers, crisp and cool cucumber and savory rich egg on a spinach-Parmesan bagel.
9. Tuxedo Mocha
Starbucks introduced this uniquely named beverage to its lineup this spring, and 78% of potential purchasers found it tempting. The menu description alone would induce cravings among chocolate fans. The Tuxedo Mocha, available hot or cold, includes steamed milk, mocha sauce and espresso and white chocolate mocha sauce, with a topping of whipped cream, mocha drizzle and dark chocolate curls. The contrasting swirls of dark and white chocolate resemble a tuxedo, hence the drink’s name.
8. Bacon Ranch Fries
Two very craveable ingredients—bacon and ranch sauce—distinguish these french fries on Wendy’s menu. But the description reveals even more temptation, as the natural-cut fries are topped with an Italian three-cheese blend and the bacon is applewood-smoked. The combination of flavors appealed to 78% of potential purchasers.
7. Iced Pumpkin Caramelicious
Pumpkin is usually associated with fall LTOs, but respondents in Technomic’s survey seem to crave the flavor in spring, too. Seventy-eight percent of potential purchasers deemed the Iced Pumpkin Caramelicious from Scooter’s Coffee craveable after reading its description: “The spice of pumpkin is combined with the savory flavor of caramel and espresso to create a fantastic new flavor. Topped with whipped cream, then drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with cinnamon for an added burst of deliciousness.” As the weather warms up, iced drinks gain favor, and this sweet-savory pairing resonated with consumers.
6. Mason Jar Banana Puddin’
This Southern-style dessert launched on the menu at Fatz Cafe, and 78% of potential purchasers found it craveable. Housemade banana pudding and crumbled vanilla wafers are layered in a Mason jar and topped with whipped cream, a combination of ingredients and presentation that appealed to consumers. Fatz tapped into a favorite dessert that originated in home kitchens—even listing it as a homey “puddin’”—and turned it into a craveable LTO.
5. Fisherman’s Catch Platter
The Fisherman’s Catch Platter from Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen is just as the name of the dish implies—a sizable catch of seafood. The description includes one piece of batter-dipped fish, six butterfly shrimp, popcorn shrimp, a stuffed crab shell, clam strips, two sides and hush puppies. Of those potential purchasers surveyed, 79% found that assortment of seafood and its preparation craveable.
4. Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake
Again, pumpkin is showing up in a spring LTO, this time flavoring cheesecake at Maggiano’s Little Italy. Cinnamon whipped cream and candied pecans enhance the flavor and texture of this dessert and add to its decadence. The description of the Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake elicited cravings in 79% of potential purchasers.
3. Baby Back Ribs
The onset of grilling season sparks interest in grilled and barbecued items on menus, according to Technomic research. Although Baby Back Ribs as a menu name does not sound very craveable, the devil is in the detailed description of Ruby Tuesday’s LTO: roasted to fall-off-the-bone tenderness with classic barbecue sauce or Texas-dusted dry rub. That wording created cravings in 81% of potential purchasers.
2. Salted Caramel & Banana Criss-Croissant
Caramel and banana showed up on IHOP’s menu as well, this time paired in a sweet pastry concoction. The menu description uses indulgent wording in a message that speaks to the consumer: “We bake our flakey, buttery croissant pastry in a waffle iron, then fill it with cool dulce de leche cream and sliced fresh bananas, and top it off with a drizzle of salted caramel sauce.” The mix of salty, sweet and creamy flavors appealed to respondents, with 81% of potential purchasers finding the LTO craveable.
1. Applewood Bacon Wrapped Scallops Starter
This limited-time seafood appetizer at Bonefish Grill earned the top spot on the list, with 82% of potential purchasers calling it out as craveable. It’s described on the menu as four Georges Bank scallops wrapped in applewood bacon and topped with mango salsa. Mentioning the scallops’ source helps tell the story behind the item, an attribute that entices consumers. And pairing the seafood with bacon and mango salsa taps into craveable ingredients that add up to an LTO that sounds chef-inspired.