Top 10 LTOs show consumers' preference for indulgence

February’s most popular items lean towards crispy, cheesy, creamy foods, finds Technomic.
Indulgence is trending on menus this season, and ice cream sundaes are just the beginning. | Photo: Shutterstock

Colder weather naturally brings a yearning for more indulgent comfort foods, and Technomic’s recent ranking of February’s Top 10 LTOs supports that trend.

But Technomic is not alone in tracking the move toward indulgence. Buyer’s Edge, the digital procurement network that connects restaurants with suppliers, reported that “rich, indulgent fare” is surging, basing its finding on $35 billion in purchasing data. And purchases of veggie burgers have leveled off.

Plant-based meat substitutes have been on the decline for a while now, so the fact that they’re “leveling off” is not as significant as another Buyer’s Edge statistic: Orders of heavy whipping cream increased 47% in the last quarter of 2023 over the same period in 2022.

While whipped cream doesn’t show up as an ingredient in Technomic’s Top 10 in February, chocolate sauce and butter do, along with cheese, bacon, potatoes, burgers and steak. Here’s the list of those LTOs consumers would most likely purchase at chain restaurants, starting with No.10. Percentages are rounded off to the nearest whole number.

10. S’More Brownie Sundae

Full-service Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar offered this ice cream dessert, and 55% of consumers surveyed indicated they would purchase it based on the description. The sweet ending features a house-made chocolate chip brownie with graham cracker crust, chocolate sauce, toasted marshmallow and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

9.Garlic Butter Bacon Burger

Beef plus butter and bacon adds up to an indulgent burger at Sonic Drive-In. The burger build, which includes cheese, bacon, mayo, garlic butter and grilled onions, appealed to 57% of survey respondents.

8. Braised Short Ribs

This quintessential comfort food served at Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub convinced 57% of consumers to say they would purchase it. The description itself is a draw on a cold winter day: “Tender and juicy boneless braised short ribs in a robust red wine sauce with caramelized onions and mushrooms served over Maine Russet mashed potatoes crowned with crispy onion rings.”

7. Loaded Beef Nachos

Taco Bell used the word “loaded” to indicate plenty of decadent toppings on its nachos, which won over 58% of survey respondents. More enticement followed with the menu description, detailing toppings of seasoned beef, refried beans, sour cream, nacho cheese sauce, red sauce and guacamole on tortilla chips.

6. Breakfast Burrito

After reading the menu description—a soft flour tortilla stuffed with eggs, seasoned potatoes, applewood-smoked bacon, American cheese and Swiss cheese sauce— 58% of consumers were motivated to say they would purchase this Breakfast Burrito at Wendy’s. Breakfast away from home has grown post-pandemic, as workers return to offices, and people are balancing hearty foods with healthier choices.

5. Cheesy Tots

Crispy tots and melted cheese are enough to tempt 58% of respondents to purchase Burger King’s Cheesy Tots. In fact, this item had the shortest menu description of any: Loaded with melty cheese. Short but indulgent.

4. T-Bone Steak and Eggs

Coming in close behind is a plate-covering entrée from Shari’s Café & Pies. Consumers seeing a menu description that reads “Satisfy your hunger with our tender and juicy 16-oz. T-bone steak. Served with two farm-fresh eggs and choice of two breakfast sides” were all in, with 58% saying they would purchase the robust item.

3. Rancher Crispy Potatoes

Again, cheese and bacon won over consumers, with 59% of respondents indicating purchase intent for these Rancher Crispy Potatoes at Bob Evans. The potatoes’ full menu description reads “Crispy baby potatoes topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, drizzled with ranch dressing and finished with fresh green onions.” The ranch dressing doesn’t hurt either.

2. Bacon Cheddar Crisp Burger

The words “crisp” and “crispy” in the name of a menu item seems to grab consumers; this burger from Checkers got high marks from 61% of those surveyed. The Bacon Cheddar Crisp Burger is made with a 100% beef hand-seasoned patty, topped with crispy, crunchy bacon crumbles, ketchup, diced red onion and melted cheddar cheese sauce.

1. Onion Rings

Simple name but enough to lure 66% of consumers into saying they would purchase these Onion Rings from Bob Evans. No doubt the full description did the trick: “Thick-cut onion rings battered and fried to crispy perfection.” Here again, crispy triumphs this month.

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