OPINIONFood

What really makes an LTO stand out?

Driving interest—and sales—comes down to more than just the right price.
Photograph: Shutterstock

There’s been ample research into how much consumers are willing to pay for limited-time offers. But for many, it’s not just a low price that wins their attention. So what is it that draws diners in? In a bit of in-office research, a few things stood out to our editors.

Vivid food photography: Whether they are seen via traditional advertising materials or on social media—or even restaurants’ websites—pictures of the dish are one of the most common ways to garner attention, according to our staff. Not just any picture will do, though. Lighting matters, as does the color and build of the actual food. That said, a professional shot isn’t always necessary. In fact, sometimes an iPhone shot is all that’s needed, especially if it’s just going on social media.

Unique ingredients: Multiple respondents said they’d be likely to order an LTO that shines a light on an ingredient they hadn’t tried before. This is especially true, they said, if the ingredient is part of a more familiar format, such as a topping for a burger or fries. Heck, that’s how I had my first taste of kimchi many years back: kimchi poutine, or french fries topped with kimchi and other ingredients.

Novelty: One respondent specifically called out the type of LTOs launched by Taco Bell. They are funky enough to catch consumers’ attention, but not so off the wall that they don’t appeal to the brand’s target audience. A prime example was the chain’s launch of its Doritos Locos Tacos.

Combination of flavors: This might include a sweet and salty dessert or something more savory. With so many foodservice options, diners get excited about unique items they can’t get anywhere else—and that comes down to the description. Not only should operators share the key ingredients of an LTO, but some kind of nongeneric descriptor is also helpful, as long as it’s not overused, like “umami bomb.”

Price: It still matters. While diners aren’t necessarily looking for something on a dollar menu every time they order an LTO, a lower price point—or a price seen as a value—can encourage trial.

Now, nearly two in five diners say that limited-time offers are likely to influence a visit to a restaurant. That number jumps to nearly half when an LTO is offered at a discounted price. For these menu items to drive traffic, though, guests need to first learn that they are available. So how do they know?

How do you usually hear about deals or promotions from restaurants?

Source: Technomic Value & Pricing Consumer Trend Report

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.

Multimedia

Exclusive Content

Financing

Why MOD Pizza is not out of the woods yet

The Bottom Line: The fast-casual pizza chain was sold last week to Elite Restaurant Group. But few who’ve seen the finances believe the company can avoid closing large numbers of stores.

Workforce

Restaurants have a hot opportunity to improve their reputation as employers

Reality Check: New mandates for protecting workers from dangerous on-the-job heat are about to be dropped on restaurants and other employers. The industry could greatly help its labor plight by acting first.

Financing

Some McDonald's customers are doubling up on the discounts

The Bottom Line: In some markets, customers can get the fast-food chain's $5 value meal for $4. The situation illustrates a key rule in the restaurant business: Customers are savvy and will find loopholes.

Trending

More from our partners