As summer began transitioning into fall, consumers’ cravings turned to somewhat heartier menu options and savory flavors. They gravitated toward loaded fries, homestyle entrees and meaty sandwiches and bowls. But summery items such as lobster and cold-brew coffee were not forgotten, with limited-time offers featuring these ingredients also finding favor.
Click ahead to see the 10 most craveable LTOs at chains through the end of August, as indicated by potential purchasers in Technomic’s Ignite menu concept development survey. (The canvass of 500 consumers for 100 or more limited-time offers shows which are most craveable based on each item’s name and description. Results are rounded to the nearest whole number.)
10. Housemade Meatloaf
The word “housemade” in the name of this meatloaf from Black Bear Diner cues in consumers to a made-from-scratch menu item. The menu description reinforces the handcrafted message. It reads, “a special recipe of ground beef and seasoned sausage, roasted then topped with our new beef gravy and a deep-fried onion ring.” That swayed 70% of potential purchasers to call out the dish as craveable. It's now a permanent menu item at Black Bear Diner.
9. Bloomin’ Fried Chicken
Tapping into the passion for its signature Bloomin’ Onion, Outback Steakhouse launched Bloomin’ Fried Chicken as an LTO this summer. The idea appealed to 70% of potential purchasers, who deemed it craveable. The chicken uses the same seasoned batter as the onion, as per the description, and each boneless breast piece is hand-battered and fried golden brown, then drizzled with Outback’s spicy signature “bloom” sauce. The entree is accompanied by homestyle mashed potatoes and a seasonal veggie.
8. Hershey’s Cookies ’N’ Creme Donut
Consumers continued to seek sweet treats in late summer, with 70% of potential purchasers calling out this donut from Dunkin’ as craveable. It’s described as featuring real cookies ’n’ creme crumbles on top of a chocolate frosted square donut filled with vanilla-flavored buttercream. Adding a brand name such as Hershey’s to a menu item can spur purchase—62% of consumers say they like to order desserts with brand-name ingredients, according to Technomic’s Dessert Consumer Trend Report.
7. Guatemala Cold Brew Beverage
The craving for iced coffee doesn’t end with Labor Day weekend, especially with summer temperatures still heating up most of the country. The Guatemala Cold Brew Beverage from Scooter’s Coffee found favor with 70% of potential purchasers in the Technomic survey. Its flavorful menu description, which tells the complete story, no doubt increased temptation. The drink is a slow-steeped black cold-brew medium-roast coffee with notes of brown sugar, citrus and floral.
6. Garlic Bread Thickburger
Burgers continue to score high with consumers, and this Garlic Bread Thickburger from Hardee’s followed suit, with 71% of potential purchasers rating it as craveable. The condiments and toppings upped its craveability quotient. The one-third-pound Black Angus beef patty is topped with a buttery garlic herb spread, Parmesan crisps and caramelized onions and sandwiched on butter-toasted sourdough bread.
5. Baconator Fries
Bacon is another ingredient that elicits cravings. Seventy-one percent of potential purchasers found this LTO from Wendy’s to be craveable after reading its detailed menu description: “Our natural-cut, skin-on, sea-salted fries topped with warm, creamy cheese sauce, shredded cheddar, and crispy Applewood smoked bacon.” Baconator is a Wendy’s trademark, signaturizing the chain’s burgers as well.
4. Garlic Steak and Provolone
Subway introduced a new sandwich that takes cues from the classic cheesesteak, and 71% of potential purchasers deemed the combination to be craveable. The sub features layers of tender shaved steak topped with a “secret” seasoning and stacked on the chain’s new ciabatta bread. Provolone, tomatoes, onion, green peppers and creamy garlic aioli add more layers of flavor.
3. Cornbread Carnitas Bowl
This hearty breakfast-brunch bowl from First Watch is piled with bold, Latin-accented ingredients, according to its menu description. Savory pork carnitas and grilled cornbread are topped with two cage-free poached eggs, black beans, pico de gallo, cotija cheese, fresh avocado, lime crema and fresh cilantro. That combination motivated 72% of potential purchasers to rank the item as craveable.
2. Lobster Roll with Grilled Corn
Summer flavors shine through in the description of this limited-time offer from Glory Days Grill. It features Maine lobster claw and knuckle meat lightly tossed with diced celery, mayonnaise and celery salt, served in a butter-grilled New England-style roll with grilled, fresh corn on the cob, Old Bay butter and a slice of watermelon. Seventy-two percent of potential purchasers gave high marks to this menu item for its craveability.
1. Overloaded Sweet Potato Fries
Two chains loaded up fries with toppings for summer LTOs, with these Overloaded Sweet Potato Fries from Logan’s Roadhouse earning the No. 1 spot for craveability. On the menu, Logan’s encourages consumers to “get the party started with 1/2 lb. of sweet potato fries topped with hand-pulled pork, creamy queso, made-in-house pico, jalapenos and your choice of original BBQ or Bourbon BBQ sauce.” That description appealed to 72% of potential purchasers for its craveability.