New menu launches speeded up this fall, after coronavirus stalled R&D at many chains last spring. A number of limited-time offers focused on familiar favorites with a twist and heartier foods to beat the chillier weather. But other items caught consumers’ attention too.
Click through to see the 10 most appealing LTOs at chain restaurants from October through November, as indicated by Technomic’s menu concept development survey. (The canvass of 500 consumers for more than 100 LTOs shows which 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. German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream
Ice cream never loses its popularity, even as the weather turns colder. To add to the temptation, the description of this item on Baskin-Robbins’ menu is written in very creative language: “Forks down, spoons up for Swiss style chocolate ice cream with coconut, walnut pieces, and fudge brownie pieces. Oh and let's not forget the caramel swirl!” That convinced 53% of consumers to say they would order the indulgent German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream.
9. Strawberry Lemonade
Biscuitville’s twist on lemonade received a high purchase intent score from 54% of consumers in the survey. The Southern-style menu lists it with the description “our refreshing new lemonade features real strawberries in every serving.” Using the adjective “real” implies authenticity and natural ingredients—important characteristics for consumers today.
8. Wood-Fired Grilled Steak Tacos
Steak is a draw for restaurant customers, especially when the cooking technique is included in the menu name as it is with these Wood-Fired Grilled Steak Tacos. The Seasons 52 menu doesn’t really elaborate much more, simply stating that they come with pico de gallo, avocado-lime crema, rice and beans. That was enough to sway survey respondents; 54% indicated they would purchase the tacos after reading the name and description.
7. Hot Cakes Breakfast Platter
Hardee’s menued this hearty breakfast platter in the fall, composed of three golden hot cakes, two folded eggs and a choice of sausage or bacon, served with syrup and butter on the side. A pretty basic pancake breakfast, but the familiar combo appealed to 55% of consumers as a potential purchase.
6. Prime Rib and Cheddar Angus Thickburger
The words “prime,” “Angus” in this LTO’s name connote a premium product—something consumers seek out. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed ranked this burger as an item they would order. On the menu, Hardee’s elaborates on the description, writing that it’s “a 1/3 lb. charbroiled Angus Beef patty, topped with tender slow cooked sliced prime rib, cheddar sauce and caramelized onions served on a toasted premium bun.”
5. Bacon N' Egg Hashbrown Casserole
This breakfast special from Cracker Barrel Old Country Store screams “comfort food,” a category that has been in high demand throughout the pandemic. The LTO further caught the attention of 56% of consumers with its hearty description: “Our scratch-made Hashbrown Casserole, hot off the grill and layered with pieces of crispy bacon, farm-fresh scrambled eggs, melted Colby cheese, fried onions, green onions, and fresh diced tomatoes. Served with Buttermilk Biscuits.”
4. Hand-Breaded Crispy Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is another one of those comfort foods that consumers have been gravitating toward since COVID-19 hit. Bob Evans is offering a homestyle version that fits with its concept. The menu describes the chicken as “Crispy, juicy perfection. Two hand-breaded fried chicken breasts served with your choice of two sides. Served with freshly baked dinner rolls or banana nut bread.” Of those surveyed, 57% ranked the item as a potential purchase.
3. Farmhouse Chicken Sandwich
Ever since Popeyes launched its successful fried chicken sandwich last year, many other chains have tried to get a piece of the action, fueling what has become a “chicken sandwich war” in 2020. Consumers seem to flock to every new version. Bob Evans’ sandwich features homestyle hand-breaded fried or grilled chicken breast topped with real provolone cheese, center-cut bacon, tomatoes, and onion on a toasted brioche bun—a build that appealed to 59% of survey respondents.
2. Breakfast, Egg and Bacon Biscuit
Breakfast sandwiches have proven to be popular for drive-thru, delivery and takeout orders during the pandemic. Hardee’s is simplicity itself: Crispy bacon, a fresh-cracked fried egg and American cheese all on a made-from-scratch biscuit. But 59% of consumers appreciated its simplicity and gave this breakfast sandwich high marks, indicating they would purchase it.
1. Loaded Mashed Potatoes
Talk about comfort food, this limited-time offer from Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que is comfort personified. Described as “our own garlic mashed potatoes topped with butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, chopped bacon and green onions,” this dish appealed to 59% of consumers and placed it in the No. 1 spot of this month’s ranking.