Burgers, fries and desserts are often the foods consumers say they are most likely to purchase, but more unique offerings can be equally as tempting, suggests research from Techomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics, which reveals that limited-time offers with new flavors and surprising elements can lure a sizable majority of potential customers to restaurant chains.
Click through to see the 10 chain LTOs consumers deemed the most unique in November, as indicated by Technomic’s MenuSurf survey, which asks consumers about their purchase intent and perceived originality of limited-time offers. (The canvass of 500 consumers for 100 or more LTOs shows which are most unique on the basis of the item’s name and description. Results are rounded to the nearest whole number.)
10. Kevin Pizza
The unusual name of this MOD Pizza LTO is its first sign of originality, although consumers surveyed needed the item’s full description before qualifying it as unique. The pizza crust is sauced with pumpkin puree, topped with pumpkin, arugula, mozzarella, Canadian bacon and sweet-hot peppers, baked and finished with a balsamic fig glaze. The pairing of seasonal produce with sweet, spicy and salty flavors led 73% of consumers to call the Kevin Pizza unique.
9. PB and J Burger
No doubt nostalgia for a childhood favorite attracted some consumers to this burger, offered for a limited time at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar. Seventy-four percent of survey respondents were tempted by the creative combination of peanut butter, grape jelly and a grilled beef burger, enhanced with candied bacon, Havarti cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. The burger also got high marks for craveability from 64% of consumers.
8. Boston Lager Tater Tots
Potato preps always score well with MenuSurf respondents in terms of craveability and purchase intent, but these beer-infused tots were a differentiator for consumers. Of those surveyed, 75% characterized this Ninety Nine Restaurants LTO as unique after hearing its description: handmade tater tots infused with Samuel Adams Boston Lager, applewood-smoked bacon and Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, served with a horseradish sour cream dipping sauce.
7. Duck Sandwich
Arby’s has built a reputation in the QSR segment for menuing more exotic meat sandwiches, including bison and elk, usually offering them during hunting season. This fall, it was duck, made with boneless breast sourced from a large domestic producer so the LTO could run a bit longer. The duck is seared, cooked sous vide-style and topped with fried onions and smoked cherry sauce. Seventy-six percent of consumers found Arby’s duck sandwich to be a unique offering.
6. The Passionate Palmer
There’s a lot of innovation happening on beverage menus, and Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe is at the forefront with its variation on the popular Arnold Palmer. The liquid LTO features sweet tea with passionfruit puree, lemon juice and agave nectar, an on-trend natural sweetener. The fruity tea balanced with tart lemon juice is a unique combination, according to close to 76% of consumers. The flavors of the drink also complement Razzoo’s Cajun-Creole menu.
5. Mango Habanero Chicken Tostada
Pairing sweet fruity flavors with hot peppery ones adds complexity to these tostadas from El Pollo Loco. In the MenuSurf survey, nearly 76% of consumers said that the combination of fire-grilled chicken, sliced avocado, mango salsa, tropical habanero sauce, shredded cheese, lettuce, rice and pinto beans in a green jalapeno tostada shell was unique.
4. Koginut Squash Bowl by Dan Barber
Fast-casual chain Sweetgreen regularly taps fine-dining chef Dan Barber for input on seasonal menu items that promote sustainability. The list of ingredients in this bowl reinforces that mission: roasted Koginut squash—a new variety developed by Dan Barber’s seed company, Row 7—with lemon-dill fennel, pears, basil, local goat cheese, raw walnuts, toasted almonds, toasted buckwheat, wild rice, spinach, lemon and balsamic vinaigrette. That description convinced more than 76% of consumers to call the bowl unique.
3. Spaghetti Squash with Beetballs
This vegetarian riff on spaghetti and meatballs from Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar earned points for originality from close to 77% of survey respondents. The entree features spaghetti squash and zucchini ribbons tossed with olive oil, garlic and marinara with vegetarian meatballs, topped with Romano cheese, pesto, toasted pumpkin seeds and balsamic reduction. The plant-forward, lower-carb dish fits into several of today’s eating styles.
2. 24-Karat Champagne Wings
The adjectives in the name of this menu item promise a unique take on chicken wings—and more than 77% of consumers agree. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen hand-batters the wings with Champagne, then fries and tosses them in 24-karat gold flakes—an upscale twist and differentiator for a quick-service chain.
1. Witch’s Brew Creme Frappuccino
Starbucks’ Halloween-themed Frappuccino came in at No. 1, with almost 86% of consumers finding it unique. The coffee drink is described as having a “delicious orange creme flavor dotted with imaginary Bat Warts and Lizard Scales.” But uniqueness doesn’t always translate into purchase—only 27% of MenuSurf respondents indicated they would order the limited-time Frappuccino.