The lazy, hazy days of summer bring a change in consumers’ food cravings. This season, convenience, seasonal flavors and a bit of whimsy seemed to play into preferences. New spins on burgers, seafood and ice cream treats all landed in the top 10. Several scored high for both craveability and uniqueness—a sign that innovation can drive appeal.
Click ahead to see the 10 most craveable LTOs at chains through July, 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 the item’s name and description. Results are rounded to the nearest whole number.)
10. Churro Doughnuts Sundae
It’s no surprise that ice cream cravings peak during the heat of summer. The indulgent ingredients in the description of this sundae on Silver Diner’s menu convinced 69% of potential purchasers to crave it. Here’s how it reads: “Fried doughnuts, cinnamon sugar, vanilla ice cream, nutella and raspberry drizzle, sprinkles.” Lots of contrasting textures and sweet flavors rolled into one decadent dessert.
9. The Big Pancake Burger
IHOP rolled two of its best-selling items into one LTO. The Big Pancake Burger features a “world-famous” buttermilk pancake griddled with cheddar cheese between two premium steakburger patties topped with American cheese, hickory-smoked bacon and sauce. Seventy percent of potential purchasers found the combo to be craveable. The burger also scored high for uniqueness with 74% of respondents.
8. Black Bean Stuffed Plantain Bowl
Bowls with global flavors continue to be popular, and this Latin-inspired version from Bahama Breeze was rated as craveable by 71% of potential purchasers. The menu description provides many tempting details. The vegetarian bowl is composed of a caramelized whole sweet plantain stuffed with white rice and beans simmered in sofrito sauce, topped with tomatoes, corn, black beans and cheese. Tropical accents play well in summer.
7. Grand McExtreme Bacon Burger
McDonald’s continues to rotate its menu of international favorites at its corporate headquarters restaurant in Chicago. The Grand McExtreme Bacon Burger, which originated in Spain, made its debut this summer. It features thick-cut applewood smoked bacon on a quarter-pound burger, layered with smoky bacon sauce and two slices of gouda cheese. The Spanish import was deemed craveable by 71% of potential purchasers surveyed.
6. Rodeo King
A bacon-topped burger from Burger King also earned high marks, with 72% of potential purchasers finding it craveable. The Rodeo King sandwich boasts two flame-grilled beef patties, totaling more than a half-pound of beef, topped with thick-cut smoked bacon, crispy onion rings, tangy barbecue sauce, American cheese and creamy mayonnaise.
5. Corndog Battered Lobster Tails
Summer is prime time for state fairs, and this LTO takes a cue from the corn dog—a state fair favorite. But Del Frisco’s elevates the deep-fried hot dog on a stick by swapping in lobster tails. They’re coated with corn dog batter and served with grilled corn remoulade and Creole honey mustard on the steakhouse’s bar menu. Seventy-two percent of potential purchasers found this whimsical rendition craveable, and 78% considered it unique.
4. Reese’s Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cups
Cold Stone Creamery appealed to fans of peanut butter cups by pairing the candy with ice cream in a summer LTO. Reese’s Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cups are composed of a rich chocolate cup filled with layers of peanut butter sauce and chocolate ice cream topped with rich fudge ganache, sea salt and pieces of peanut butter cup—a description that 72% of potential purchasers rated as craveable. The portability of these frosty treats makes them easy to enjoy on the run.
3. Lobster and Seafood Tacos
Lobster supply and demand goes up in the summer months, and Taco Del Mar capitalized on that surge with its latest LTO. The coastal-inspired chain launched Lobster and Seafood Tacos, a combo that is mixed with onions, serrano peppers and cilantro and served chilled on warm corn tortillas. They’re topped with shredded cabbage, Taco Del Mar’s signature white sauce and housemade pico de gallo. This item ranked high with potential purchasers for both craveability (73%) and uniqueness (70%).
2. Carrot Lava Cake
Chocolate lava cake is a well-known and well-loved dessert. Bonefish Grill taps into that popularity and familiarity with the launch of Carrot Lava Cake—a rich, warm carrot cake with a cream cheese molten center. For even more indulgence, it’s topped with whipped cream and served with vanilla ice cream over a nest of graham cracker-pecan mix. The cake’s description created cravings in 74% of potential purchasers.
1. Fresh Maryland Soft Shell Crab
Bonefish Grill’s menu describes this seasonal seafood dish as “a single soft shell crab sauteed crispy, stuffed with a Maryland-style crab cake and served with choice of two signature sides.” Added to the description is the warning that this “true delicacy” is only available for three to six weeks. The very limited time of this limited-time offer no doubt increased its allure; 76% of potential purchasers found it craveable.