As fall got into full swing, a wider variety of menu items launched as limited-time offers on chain menus. Along with the usual burgers and desserts, operators promoted a number of innovative sandwiches, entrees and sides featuring on-trend ingredients and pumped-up flavors.
Click ahead to see the 10 LTOs that received the highest scores for purchase intent from October through November, as indicated by consumers in Technomic’s Ignite Menu Concept Development survey. (The canvass of 500 consumers for 100 or more limited-time offers shows which are most likely to be purchased based on the item’s name and description. Results are rounded to the nearest whole number.)
10. Garlic Butter Bacon Burger
The application of garlic butter differentiates this burger, and Sonic played that up in the description of the LTO. It’s promoted on the menu as “Our newest burger is made with garlic butter seared into a 100% pure beef patty, topped with melty American cheese, crispy bacon, mayo and grilled onions, all stacked up on a toasted bakery bun.” That description spurred 57% of consumers to say they would purchase the burger.
9. Homestyle Chicken Pot Pie
Comfort foods spike in appeal as the weather turns colder, and consumers seem to agree—57% indicated they would purchase this chicken pot pie. Ninety Nine Restaurants emphasizes the LTO’s scratch-made qualities in the description. The item is freshly baked to order and contains tender, all-white chicken simmered in gravy with fresh carrots and peas and topped with a buttery, flaky crust. Maine russet mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce come on the side.
8. Steak & Bacon Melt
Arby’s reiterates its meaty messaging in its most recent sandwich introduction. The Steak & Bacon Melt features thick-sliced tender petite fillet steak topped with melted cheddar, pepper bacon, crispy onions and steakhouse ranch. The hearty combo scored high in purchase intent with 57% of consumers surveyed.
7. Honey Butter Biscuit Tenders
This different take on chicken and biscuits is another homey item that got high marks from consumers. Fifty-eight percent of respondents would purchase this LTO from Church’s Chicken after reading the description: “All-white meat chicken tenders freshly prepared with our signature honey-butter biscuit batter.”
6. The Sicilian Pizza
Putting the words “new” and “fresh” in a menu description seems to lure consumers. The same with lots of details. This pizza from LaRosa’s Pizzeria is described as “… a new family recipe with old world flavors! It starts with the crust—light and airy on the inside, yet crispy on the outside. Then it's topped with our brand-new savory sauce that is deliciously different than our sweet … sauce. We make it with five simple ingredients for an incredibly fresh flavor. Then it's all topped with a creamy four cheese blend for a pizza that tastes as good as it looks.” Consumers seem to like the wordiness: 58% expressed an intent to purchase this pizza.
5. Fried Smashed Potato
Logan’s Roadhouse also describes its Fried Smashed Potato with lots of details, focusing on the preparation technique. Here’s how it appears on the menu: “We start with a baked potato. Then we smash it, fry it, and load it up with cheese, bacon, sour cream and green onions.” That description convinced 61% of consumers to say they would purchase the side dish.
4. Philly Steak and Cheese Wrap
Tempting adjectives might have lured consumers to this new item from Friendly’s. Melt-in-your-mouth sirloin steak is sliced thin and topped with sauteed green peppers, onions, a mix of Monterey Jack and cheddar plus cream cheese in a grilled tomato wrap, served with cheese dip and a side of golden fries. Sixty-one percent of respondents liked the description enough to say they would purchase this item.
3. Triple Chocolate Brownie
Brand names on a menu item often resonate with restaurant customers. This dessert from Uno Pizzeria is listed as a warm chocolate brownie with Ghirardelli chocolate chips and a drizzle of chocolate sauce—a description that appealed to 62% of consumers surveyed. Plus, chocolate is always a favorite, especially when it’s in a brownie that falls into the 600 calories-or-less Uno De-Lites menu—a perk that is pointed out in the description.
2. Prime Rib Sandwich
Higher-end cuts of beef seem to be a selling point in this roundup, with both steak and prime rib making appearances. Potbelly Sandwich Shop went the prime rib route with its sandwich, really playing up the quality and taste. It’s described as “premium, thinly sliced tender and juicy prime rib topped with rich provolone and a touch of horseradish mayo on perfectly toasted bread.” Consumers pushed this sandwich into the No. 2 spot, with 63% indicating they would purchase it.
1. Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Cheese shows up as an ingredient in many of these recent LTOs, and this Parmesan Crusted Chicken from LongHorn Steakhouse calls out exactly how it enhances the item. In the description, the chain writes, “Our fresh, juicy, grilled chicken becomes irresistible when we top it with our creamy, crunchy Parmesan and garlic cheese crust.” That motivated 66% of consumers to rank this cheesy chicken in the top spot for purchase intent.