Limited-time offers for repeat business

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Increase foot traffic with innovative twists on traditional dishes.

Menu development involves more than analyzing what’s maximized and what’s under-leveraged on a menu. Menus today are also image-makers that list the array of products offered, highlight value, enthusiastically communicate relevant details about food and drink offerings, and promote limited-time offers (LTOs).

It’s tempting for operators to expand menus to promote variety, create buzz and, at the same time, avoid alienating customers who return time and again for a favorite dish or drink. To complicate matters, customer behavior varies by segment. For instance, Quick Service Restaurant customers are nearly twice as likely as convenience store customers to read the menu board every time they visit.1 Generational differences exist too. Millennials are most likely to try new foods or beverages when recommended by friends or family.2 But foodservice operators can implement LTOs to balance pleasing customers who want their usual order and those drawn to the new and unusual.

Consumers prefer LTOs with special attributes:3

  • Seasonal flavors
  • New/unique flavors
  • Product is rarely available
  • Fresh ingredients
  • New twist on a familiar dish

Appeal to your market with LTOs

Tempt your customers with attention-getting special offers that shine on your menu board, get shared on social media, and ultimately bring patrons back for more. The most talked-about LTOs are fairly priced and provide new experiences in the form of unique flavors or new spins on old favorites.3

LTOs are usually available for at least a month but preferably longer. Successful LTOs drive repeat traffic, so longer stints on the menu are advantageous. Wider time windows for LTOs give customers multiple purchasing opportunities and offer stronger tie-ins with seasonality. Patrons often return to order an LTO again (39%); 37% of them bring friends along, and 28% spread the word. Another 18% post details on social media.3

Consumers are interested in LTOs across segments3

  • 29% quick service restaurants
  • 24% fast casual restaurants
  • 18%Lodging
  • 16% Convenience stores
  • 14% Business & Industry

Encourage experimentation

Offer on-trend, seasonal LTOs and give customers more reason to experiment. In fact, 64% of customers say LTOs are more intriguing than regular menu items.3 Seasonality has appeal across the board, but 29% of Gen Y customers and 26% Gen X customers are most likely to be interested in seasonal specials.2 Provide descriptive details and make food and beverage specials prominent. While 59% of customers look for LTOs or special promotions on the menu board, only 39% say that information is easy to find. LTOs help meet consumer demands for new menu options, yet 30% of operators do not feature promotions on their menu boards.1

Tweak the traditional

To appeal to less adventurous diners who are reluctant to purchase LTOs, tweak foods that are familiar to them. This removes some of the risk for the 24% of customers who avoid LTOs because of the uncertainty of liking the meal. In general, consumers are especially interested in burger and pizza LTOs and are generally more open to ordering these items.3 LTOs build business by appealing to Gen Xers and younger generations who form the target audience for newer or unknown dishes and drinks. Customers 35 and younger prove to be the most enthusiastic about global flavors.2

About 62% of consumers say any kind of food can qualify as a snack,4 and their snack orders prove that menu items can be cross-utilized. Appealing to those all-day snackers can expand the daypart reach of LTOs.

Most LTO purchases currently occur at lunch (39%) and dinner (30%). To build traffic across slower dayparts, consider focusing on snack-centric offerings such as breakfast items, sweets, or sides that have the advantage of all-day appeal3 and cross-utilize ingredients from root-to-stem and nose-to-tail.

About half of all snacks eaten away from home are traditional snack foods, 27% of snacks are appetizers or side dishes, and 34% are main meal items.5



1. Datassential, Menu Boards Keynote, July 2015
2. Datassential, CPP – Generations, 2015
3. Datassential, CPP – LTO Demand, February 2017
4. Datassential, Snacking Keynote, March 2017
5. Datassential, CPP – Motivators & Behavior, 2015