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Consumer Trends

Consumers rank the top 10 LTOs of summer

Technomic data reveals the recent limited-time offers consumers would most likely purchase.
Steak Tacos
Wood-Grilled Steak Tacos landed in the No. 5 spot in the Top 10 LTOs ranking. / Photo courtesy of Seasons 52

Menu development is accelerating at chains post-pandemic, and limited-time offers keep flowing out of the pipeline and onto menus. Beef seemed to be an ingredient of choice over the summer, with a number of LTOs featuring the meat.

Several of the beefy dishes and other Top 10 items boasted flavors that tie into outdoor barbecuing, a popular seasonal activity. Perhaps that’s why they scored high in Technomic’s Ignite Menu consumer-rated LTOs ranking.

Here’s a rundown of the LTOs consumers would most likely purchase based on the name and description of the item only. Percentages are rounded off to the nearest whole number.

10. Deep Dish Nachos

Uno Pizzeria & Grill riffed on its signature deep-dish pizza by applying the same description to nachos. The layers of tortilla chips, seasoned beef, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, salsa, jalapenos, banana peppers, olives and diced tomatoes are served in a deep-dish pan topped with sour cream. The description ends with “dig in,”—tempting 57% of consumers surveyed to say they would purchase the nachos.

9. Summertime Chicken Sandwich

Grilled BBQ chicken, Tillamook cheddar and ranch pickle slaw gives this Summertime Chicken Sandwich a different spin from the numerous fried chicken versions out there. That point of differentiation by Shari’s Cafe and Pies appealed to 57% of consumers.  

8. Brisk-B-Q Melt

It was a good month for family dining chains, as Denny’s and Shari’s both scored in the Top 10, the former with its’ Brisk-B-Q Melt. The savory sandwich, comprised of slow-smoked brisket, aged white cheddar, Diner Q sauce and pickles on grilled artisan bread enticed 57% of consumers enough to indicate they would purchase it.

7. Filet Mignon and Maine Lobster Tail

Surf and turf is an iconic pairing, and Seasons 52 offered filet mignon and a Maine lobster tail along with roasted asparagus, marble potatoes and herb butter. That upscale description motivated 57% of respondents toward ordering the dish should they visit the restaurant.

6. Steak and Lobster

Red Lobster also jumped on the surf-‘n-turf bandwagon with its recent LTO. The name of the item—Steak and Lobster—is very basic, but the description is a bit more alluring: “A wishbone Maine lobster tail and a NY strip grilled with Red Lobster’s signature seasoning. Served with a choice of two sides.” Fifty-eight percent of consumers survey liked it enough to say they would purchase the entree.

5. Wood-Grilled Steak Tacos

Seasons 52 got another nod for its Wood-Grilled Steak Tacos, simply described as “beef tenderloin, pico de gallo, avocado-lime crema.” That was enough for 59% of respondents to rank the tacos as something they would purchase. Using descriptors like “wood-grilled” and “slow-smoked” is compelling.

soft serve ice cream

Photo courtesy of Carvel

4. Brownie Batter Soft Serve Ice Cream

A ranking of top summer menu items would not be complete without ice cream on the list. Carvel’s Brownie Batter Soft Serve landed at No. 4, a favorite with 60% of consumers surveyed. The description can’t miss: “Lick-the-spoon good. Fudgy brownie batter mixed with creamy chocolate ice cream.”

3. Cookies and Ice Cream

True Food Kitchen is into simplicity by naming its dessert a bare bones “Cookies and Ice Cream.” But a description of chocolate chip cookies served with vanilla ice cream hit the sweet spot with 60% of respondents. Health-focused True Food Kitchen is not a chain usually associated with dessert; perhaps that adds to this item’s appeal.

2. Smoky BBQ Spare Ribs

Shari’s scores again with Smoky BBQ Spare Ribs—an LTO which 62% of consumers would purchase. The 1/3 rack of ribs with ranch pickle slaw and redskin mashed potatoes fits into the summer barbecue theme and it’s a dish that is more labor-intensive to cook in the backyard.

1. Campfire Potatoes

O’Charleys’ topped the LTO list with its premium side of Campfire Potatoes. The combination of roasted potatoes topped with garlic butter, cheese, bacon and green onions, wrapped in foil and served with sour cream, is an innovative departure from the usual French fries. The mix of flavors, presentation and reference to summertime campfires resonated with 66% of consumers in the survey.

Campfire Potatoes

O'Charley's Campfire Potatoes topped the list of LTOs consumers would most likely purchase. /Photo courtesy of O'Charleys

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