How Limited Time Offers Can Increase Your Restaurant Marketing Efforts

lto-636x424When seasons change, restaurants look for ways to attract new customers and to encourage current guests to move past their one, favorite dish.

Enter the limited time offer (LTO.)  With the help of LTOs, restaurants can freshen up their identity without overhauling the menu.  That said, LTOs add operational challenges and additional food costs.  To ensure that the campaign sees a positive ROI, follow these simple rules for operations and restaurant marketing.

Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS): If you’re a better-burger chain, don’t make a 180-degree turn with a pizza LTO.  Instead, stay true to who you are.  Small, yet unexpected departures from your regular menu add elements of surprise without causing confusion.  Red Robin, for example, is introducing a new gourmet burger for the holiday season.  They’ve stayed true to their brand while offering something special to mark a particular time of year.

Use LTOs as Tests: Just because you remain true to your menu doesn’t mean you shouldn’t flex your culinary muscle.  LTOs are a great way to express a new side of your brand personality without alienating your core.  LTOs are also fertile testing ground to learn just how far your guests are willing to go.

Be Creative: A few summers ago, every fast-casual and quick-service chain had some version of a LTO salad with strawberries and nuts.  You couldn’t swing a cat without seeing a commercial about the sweet, tangy combination.  The clutter of similar options meant no one owned it and therefore was deemed unsuccessful.

Drive Anticipation: Think of the McRibb and Pumpkin Spiced Latte.  They were both incredibly popular.  When time ran out, adoring fans wrote love letters to McDonalds and Starbucks (respectively) pleading for the menu item’s return.  Now, when each brand announces they’re bringing them back, it creates a frenzy.  Smart!

Prepare the Team: LTOs require a great deal of work before the launch.  Prior to introducing an LTO, make sure you are operationally tight.  Have your staff taste the dish to become familiar with how to describe it to guests.  Create staff Q&As about ingredients, flavor profiles and how long the dish is available.

Engage Marketing: LTOs are some of the best fodder for marketing and public relations.  It’s a timely reason to talk about the brand and to encourage that media to visit the restaurant.  Develop in-store and online creative to bring the LTO to life.  Create engaging social content to drive specific interest in the dish.  Consider creating videos of the chef or GM preparing the dish.  Share flavor profiles and interesting ingredients.  Post to all your social channels and encourage sharing.

LTOs are a restaurant gift – treat them that way!  Get the most of the time the dish is available to inform future menu items and culinary innovation.  When it comes to restaurants, food is your currency.  Make sure you are over-delivering on your LTO promise.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 17+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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