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

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