Research finds LTOs to be constant draws

Limited-time offers have become a regular draw for one of every five consumers, and restaurant chains should pay particular attention to how their temporary menu products are wrapped or boxed, according to a new research report.

The survey of 6,000-plus U.S. consumers found that 20 percent purchase restaurant or supermarket LTOs often. The prime reason, cited by 60 percent of the LTO fans, was the opportunity to try new flavors. But 38 percent acknowledged that unique packaging also figured into their decisions.

The survey was conducted by Los Angeles-based Instantly, a consumer research and marketing company.

The research comes to light as a number of restaurant chains are rethinking their reliance on LTOs as short-term traffic boosters. Some executives question the wisdom of spending millions to promote a product that will only be available for two months or so. Others note the disappointment customers feel when a favorite LTO has been yanked, and many bemoan the operational challenges of stocking new items and retraining the staff with every new offer.

The Instantly research suggests restaurants have succeeded in using their LTOs as attention-getters. It found that 52 percent of consumers are familiar with Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, a product so successful that the burger chain returned it to the menu amid considerable hoopla. 

The research found that certain recurring LTOs have become ingrained in the consumer mindset. McDonald’s McRib Sandwich, a product with a cult following, is the nation’s best-known LTO, followed by the chain's Shamrock McCafe Shake, a green milkshake offered annually around St. Patrick’s Day. 

Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, a coffee drink offered every fall, was Number 4 on the list.

"Overwhelmingly, our survey showed that consumers have a heightened awareness of limited edition products and are genuinely interested in trying new flavors and seasonal offerings when they become available," said Andy Jolls, Instantly’s CMO.


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