There was a lot of activity on chain menus this fall, as operators launched an assortment of limited-time offers in step with the season. Chilly weather coming sooner than expected across a good part of the country may have attracted consumers to warm, comforting foods. They gave high marks to hearty items featuring melted cheese, savory meats and homestyle potatoes.
Click ahead to see the nine most appealing LTOs at chains from September through October, as indicated by Technomic’s Ignite menu concept development survey. (The canvass of 500 consumers for 100 or more LTOs shows which are most likely to be ordered on the basis of each item’s name and description. Results are rounded to the nearest whole number.)
9. Egg and Cheese Breakfast Toasted Wrap
The word “toasted” in the description indicates a warmth and texture, one of the cues that spurred a majority (58%) of respondents to say they would purchase it. This LTO from Del Taco also offers another perk—a complete breakfast in a portable package. Scrambled eggs, hash brown potato sticks, cheddar cheese and salsa are all wrapped up in a flour tortilla. Del Taco also offered a variation of the wrap with bacon, which received a similar high score.
8. Seasoned and Seared Prime Rib
Outback Steakhouse took a slight detour from its steak-centric menu with a roast beef item this fall. The thick prime rib cut is described as being slow-roasted, then seasoned and seared to perfection and served in the classic style with creamy horseradish sauce and choice of potato or side. The combination enticed 58% of consumers to indicate they would order the entree.
7. Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Fifty-eight percent of potential purchasers liked the idea of this LTO from Not Your Average Joe’s. While other full-service restaurants offer buttermilk fried chicken, the size of this portion and the handcrafted descriptors might have swayed consumers to give this one high marks. On the menu, it’s described as a “half chicken soaked in buttermilk, hand-breaded and fried to crispy perfection, served with french fries and grilled spice-rubbed corn on the cob.”
6. Smoky Cheddar Roast Beef Sandwich
Slow-roasted seems to be a tempting adjective: This sandwich from Roy Rogers, which is filled with slow-roasted top round roast beef, also prompted purchase intent with 58% of consumers. Smoky barbecue and cheddar cheese sauces complete the build.
5. Philly Grilled Cheese
TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli puts a unique twist on traditional grilled cheese by layering on thinly sliced roast beef, green and red peppers, onions and two cheeses—American and provolone. The Philadelphia cheesesteak-style sandwich appealed to 58% of potential purchasers.
4. Pepperoni Cheese Bread
This LTO is described on Little Caesars’ menu as “freshly baked bread with a crispy edge, covered with cheese, peperoni and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.” That description convinced 59% of respondents to say they would order the meaty, cheesy add-on with pizza flavors.
3. Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders
Hand-breading is a made-from-scratch cue, something that appealed to 62% of potential purchasers. Buffalo Wild Wings adds extra appeal with more menu details: The chicken tenders are beer-battered in Lagunitas IPA and served with a choice of sauce. Taken together, these descriptors indicate quality and craftsmanship.
2. Bacon Cheddar Baked Potato
Two potato items came out on top in the survey. This Bacon Cheddar Baked Potato from Roy Rogers boasts a simple description: a baked potato topped with cheddar cheese sauce and bacon. Simplicity sells, as 68% of consumers found this LTO to be worthy of ordering. Potatoes, bacon and cheese seem to be a winning combination.
1. Loaded Roast Potatoes
Boston Market’s potato LTO is a little more complex but is composed of similar comforting ingredients. Roasted red potatoes are topped with melted cheddar cheese, crisp bacon pieces and fresh sliced green onions—a combo that 70% of potential purchasers found appealing. The word “loaded” in the name no doubt had a role in pushing this item to the No. 1 spot, because it implies value and an ample portion size.