Non-Commercial Foodservice Operators Fuel Urgency to Buy with Limited-Time Offers (LTOs)

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LTO Menu Planning Best Practices

Strategically offering limited-time offers (LTOs) serves as a low-cost, high-profit avenue to drive customer excitement and increase sales. Products available only for a limited-time fuel consumers’ urgency to buy and with 50% of millennials and gen X-ers aiming to be the first among their peers to try an establishment’s new LTO offering, it’s an effective strategy foodservice operators can use to test new menu items, increase sales, or keep customers interested in their operations’ everyday menu.

Coupled with the need to be the first to try a new menu item is FOMO – the fear of missing out. FOMO has become increasingly prevalent amongst consumers who dread the idea of missing out on anything from the newest technologies on the market, to special events, to popular food trends. FOMO can happen to anyone so it’s important for foodservice operators to recognize and take advantage of the unique opportunity available to them. Combine the feeling of FOMO with the need for customers to be the first to try something new, add an LTO, and what do you get? Excited customers who boost your foodservice operation’s bottom line!

What is an LTO?

An LTO is a special menu item or set of menu items available for a clearly-defined, short period of time. These menus are typically offered several times per year on a seasonal basis to fuel urgency among customers and entice them to buy while an item is available. If they don’t act now, their FOMO kicks in and they worry they’ll miss out on a unique product and culinary experience that may or may not be available again in the future.

LTO Menu Planning

It’s important for non-commercial foodservice operators to plan an LTO several months ahead of time to ensure having sufficient time to address the following requirements prior to implementation:

  • Kitchen staff must be trained in all preparation and serving techniques prior to the LTO going live. Operators need to make sure new items are simple to execute and staff members have the skills, equipment, and space needed to successfully deliver and exceed customer expectations. If they don’t have the means to easily produce new menu items, its’ time to reevaluate.
  • Inventory must be planned for the duration of the LTO, so supplies don’t run out prior to the end of the promotion.
  • Marketing is key! Customers won’t – and can’t – purchase special menu items if they aren’t aware they exist. Operators need to spread the word by announcing LTOs on the homepage of their online ordering site, posting to social media platforms, and emailing customers to drive excitement.
  • Operators must work with their catering management software provider to have any new menu item(s) added to their online ordering site so their menu is ready in time for the go-live date.

 Best Practices for Offering an LTO Menu
  • Keep seasonality in mind and remember while most ingredients are available throughout the entire year, they may not be cost-effective.
  • LTOs are typically focused on holidays, special events, seasons, current events, or current menu trends.
  • Operators need to analyze food cost when creating LTOs and choose items that are cost-effective and profitable to boost the operation’s bottom line.
  • LTOs should include unique items that are affordably-priced for customers.
  • Operators can – and should – forecast estimated sales for an LTO based on past sales trends and customer requests to improve inventory management and prevent (and reduce) food waste once the promotion period ends.
  • When quality imagery is included with LTO menus, customers are more likely to purchase.
  • Don’t forget about beverages! Oftentimes operators focus on plated meals and seasonal dishes and forget that beverages make great, cost-effective additions to LTO menus.
  • In larger enterprises, LTOs can be tested in select locations in different regions to gauge how well an LTO will sell overall prior to rolling out new items nationwide.
  • If an item sold well during a limited-time promotion period and customers enjoyed it, add it to the regular menu!
CaterTrax Supports LTO Menu Implementation

LTOs are a simple way to regularly update menus and keep customers excited about your offerings. With the proper planning, foodservice operators can easily play off the idea of customer FOMO and their need to be the first to try anything new to help drive unplanned purchases and increase sales by working with their catering management software provider to add LTOs to their online menus.

CaterTrax supports client LTO requests on a per-site basis and for larger enterprise clients who request the addition of an LTO to 25 sites or more, they manage the project over a seven-week period so all included sites go live with their LTO on the same date. Current clients simply need to submit a menu ticket with their LTO request or work with their Client Success Manager or Sales Executive, and CaterTrax will assist in updating their online ordering menu. Click the button below to download an infographic detailing CaterTrax’s process for managing LTO requests.

Download Infographic

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