Chicken ruled the roost on chain menus in October, starring in four of the month’s 10 limited-time offers with top consumer appeal. Snack-savvy items, such as bacon- and cheese-filled pretzel bites and waffle potato chips, also scored well, as did a burger with roots in the Netherlands. Surprisingly, pumpkin didn’t stand out to consumers during its peak season, as not a single pumpkin-flavored item made the top 10 list, and many received low ratings in terms of purchase intent.
Click ahead to see the 10 most appealing LTOs at chains from September through October, as indicated by Technomic’s MenuSurf survey. (The canvass of 500 consumers shows which LTOs out of 100 or more are most likely to be ordered on the basis of the item’s name and description. Results are rounded to the nearest whole number.)
10. Whole Roasted Chicken
Maggiano’s Little Italy takes a comfort-food favorite and gives it an Italian accent with its rosemary- and garlic-seasoned roast chicken served with crispy Vesuvio potatoes. The dish’s description, which caught the attention of 58% of consumers, indicates that it can be ordered in a half or whole portion, making it a flexible option for diners wishing to share an entree.
9. Sirloin Steak Street Tacos
The word “street” signals authenticity, a characteristic that resonated with 59% of consumers when it came to this LTO from Taco John’s. The chain reinforced the authentic messaging by calling out garlic-lime sauce and crumbled Mexican cheese in the item’s description. Consumers are looking for more ethnic authenticity on menus, with 32% saying they are willing to pay more for authentic global fare, according to Technomic’s Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report. Sirloin steak, a premium protein, adds extra appeal.
8. Angus Maestro Burger
McDonald’s launched this burger on its Global Restaurant Menu, a rotating selection of international menu items offered at the chain’s headquarters in Chicago. American consumers seemed to take a liking to this Netherlands import, with 60% saying they would order the LTO after hearing its description. The burger features two Angus beef patties seasoned with a steak and butter sauce and topped with white cheddar cheese, bacon slices, lettuce, red onion rings, ketchup and wild mustard sauce, layered on an artisan bun.
7. Bacon and Mozzarella Stuffed Bites
A combination of gooey cheese and smoky bacon stuffed into bite-sized soft pretzel pieces convinced 60% of consumers to say they would purchase this item from Pretzelmaker. It comes in two sizes: 8 and 16 ounces. As the snacking trend continues to grow, consumers are looking for more shareable and savory options such as these.
6. Waffle Potato Chips
Chick-fil-A’s branded waffle potato chips—a takeoff on the chain’s popular waffle fries—are geared to off-premise customers. The packaged chips are an easy add to delivery and catering orders, and 60% of consumers surveyed said they would purchase them. The adjectives “kettle-cooked” and “waffle-cut” in the item’s description imply a housemade product, another appealing attribute to today’s consumers. Earlier this month, Chick-fil-A announced its menu would be available for delivery nationwide, making the chips a timely item.
5. Fruit Cup
Fresh fruit is still not prevalent at fast-food chains, and Chick-fil-A’s combo of fresh strawberries, blueberries, red and green apple pieces and mandarin oranges generated purchase intent among 60% consumers. The item makes a healthy side in a kids meal or a fries substitute for adult customers.
4. Homestyle Crispy Chicken Sandwich
This new sandwich from Subway comes layered with a crispy chicken strip patty, cheese and smoky honey mustard sauce. Subway is exploring new flavors, seasonings and sandwiches, says Andy Dismore, director of menu management and innovation, and the mustard sauce is a new condiment that adds unique flavor. Plus, the “homestyle” reference in the name denotes scratch-made prep. This sandwich appealed to 63% of consumers, ranking Subway’s LTO in fourth place.
3. Bacon, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Slinger
Sonic Drive-In offered this elevated QSR breakfast sandwich on a “bakery quality brioche bun,” as pointed out in the item’s description. The chain also uses enticing adjectives to describe its ingredients: “melty” cheese, “fluffy” egg and “crispy” bacon. The whole package elicited purchase intent in 64% of consumers surveyed.
2. Crispy Chicken Tenders
Although this item isn’t a new one for Burger King, it showcases the chain’s move to cleaner sourcing. The chicken tenders are touted as being made without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. More selling points are provided in the description, such as “coated in a home-style seasoned breading,” “tender and juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside,” and “perfect for dipping.” Sixty-seven percent of consumers said they would purchase Burger King’s Crispy Chicken Tenders.
1. Fried Chicken
Another simple-sounding dish won over consumers, with Cracker Barrel’s Fried Chicken earning October’s top purchase-intent score: 68%. Its description couldn’t be more basic: breaded and fried chicken breast, leg, wing and thigh with two sides and a choice of biscuits or cornbread. Surprisingly, Cracker Barrel has never offered a bone-in fried chicken entree on its menu as a permanent item nationwide. In tests, the hand-breaded fried chicken proved to be a customer favorite, according to the chain, and is now poised to roll out across all locations.