Introducing LTOs

Keep customers coming back for more and offer them an expanded experience by getting Limited Time Offers right.

Limited Time Offers (LTOs) have long been a consistent driver of sales and profitability for foodservice businesses. The concept is simple: offer unique and/ or seasonal ingredients over a restricted period of time and watch your sales grow.

Limited time offers are designed to provide your business with a refreshing change of pace that will keep regulars coming back as well as helping to generate new business.

1. Nimble execution

The ability of independents to quickly execute LTOs is an undeniable competitive advantage. The time
it takes for an independent to plan
and execute an LTO is much shorter because there are fewer people involved at each step of the process:

* Menu ideation
* Testing
* Staff training for both FOH and BOH
* Marketing communications (i.e., server messages, table tents, menu inserts, website and social media)

2. Get the word out

Start promoting your event as far in advance as possible via signage, social media and email.

3. Menu ideation

Increasing access to diverse foods and a desire for more food exploration continues to raise guest expectations for new and unique dining experiences. The LTO can be employed to deliver experiences that create a true point of differentiation in the market—and to test the value of differentiations before they make it to the full menu.

The key is to remain focused on your brand but stretch your current guest experience and attract new guests. Consider subtle extensions of the brand that may elevate check average or appeal to different audiences.

The finite shelf life of an LTO enables you to test new ideas with manageable risk. Even if it doesn’t work as well as hoped, you haven’t invested anywhere near what you would in adding an item to your regular menu.

4. Evoke a sense of urgency

Whether your limited time offer is seasonal or not, evoking a sense of urgency to your customers often
times will increase their willingness to purchase the item. By reinforcing that a certain item will only be around for a limited period of time, you are both encouraging customers to avail of the offer before its gone, while also making them feel special for doing so.

5. Elevate and indulge

Even people who have been watching diets are willing to splurge for holiday occasions. Consider upping
the indulgence with special dishes, desserts or drinks. Just make sure your kitchen and serving staff can execute new offerings. And don’t be afraid to charge more if you’re offering something more. Also, think beyond food. What else can you do to enhance the dining experience? Live music? A complimentary drink or free menu item? Extra details make memories and generate return visits.

6. Limit your supply

One strategy to get customers excited about your limited time offer is to offer a scarce amount of it. This has the same effect as creating a sense of urgency except for the fact that instead of being limited on time you are producing a product that is limited on quantity.

Use terms like “While supplies last” or “X number left” to encourage customers to pay your restaurant a visit.

7. Keep pricing in mind

Make sure your limited time offer is correctly priced and provides an incentive to customers. When it comes to restaurants, guests are more willing to go out of their way for a good deal than if they are asked to pay full price. Examples include buy one get one free offers, and seasonal discounts.
Using a food cost calculator can help you set a price for your limited time offer. By better understanding your food cost, you also understand how low you can go while still breaking a profit on each menu item. Allowing you to sacrifice some profit in exchange for more traffic at your restaurant. (Check out our new margin calculator)

8. Review and assess

Sit down with your team a week or so after the event for a debriefing. What went wrong? What went right? What’s can be improved? Document everything so you have it when creating next year’s plan.