When planned in advance, execution of your limited time offer or special menu item can provide your restaurant with increased traffic and sales dollars. But determining what you should offer can be challenging even for the most successful operator.
LTOs are essential to meeting guests’ desire for new experiences. You can be sure that guests will seek these experiences elsewhere if you don’t offer them. Follow the steps below to plan and execute your next LTO.
Step 1: Set your goal
What are you trying to achieve with this special offer?
COVID restrictions are lifting and you want to get more people back into your dining room
Going into a slow season and want to increase traffic
Holiday or sporting event coming up and competition for patrons will be high
Testing a new item before it is added to the menu to evaluate interest and price
Most of your customers are regulars and you want to attract new customers
Generate excitement and repeat traffic with existing customers
Step 2: Select your item
Make sure to select the right menu items to offer in order to meet your goal. Choosing something that isn’t unique or doesn’t fit your brand is unlikely to bring in additional sales. Adding items that don’t enhance your established brand may confuse your customer base and turn them away rather than bring them back.
Use customer data. Look at customer feedback online or do a survey on social media to find out what your customers would like to see on your menu.
Involve your staff. Initiate a contest for your employees to submit their best ideas. It’ll keep them engaged and excited to promote the special when it runs. Better yet, use their name in the special – “Adam’s Arugula & Artichoke Pizza”
Add an ingredient. Change up a dish the customer is familiar with by adding a unique ingredient or two. This allows you to use your standard pantry ingredients without investing too much more.
Follow the trends. Consumers are looking for unique flavors to try, especially Millennials and members of Gen Z, so make sure to utilize trending flavors in your specials.
Seasons, holidays & events. Develop LTOs for the season (add pumpkin, watermelon, tomatoes), holidays (heart-shaped garlic knots, cannoli with bunny ears, turkey & stuffing pizza) or sporting events (football-shaped pizza, local team themed appetizer).
Kitchen practicality. Do you have the right equipment and staff to be successful with a quality preparation? If the recipe calls for a deep fryer and you don’t have one, it might be best to try something else.
Extend your brand. If you are known for a certain item on your menu, try developing a twist on that application by using it in other dishes.
Step 3: Determine the price
Use the same method to determine the price of your specials as you do for all of your menu items ensuring that they are in line with your current pricing strategy.
Pricing too high may alienate your current customer base who has grown to appreciate your quality food and is willing to pay the prices on your menu.
You will attract a new audience that hopefully turn into repeat customers and not just one-time bargain hunters if you price the special too low.
The success of your specials not only depends on the quality and flavor of the food, but also on how well you got the word out about your offer.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Start off with appealing photography of the special. 42% of consumers buy a premium priced LTO stated it was because the photos looked good.1
It’s a digital world. Use your online and social media presence to share timely and customized messages to your target audience.
Share your experience. Encourage those who have tried your special to share it on their social media accounts. Then make sure you retweet and re-post their social shares to keep the buzz going.
Offer a reward. Give the first 100 customers who shared their positive experience on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook a special reward.
Your staff is the key.
Get all employees to taste it! How many times has a customer asked “is it good?” and you’ve heard “I don’t know, I haven’t tried it.”?
Make sure they know as much about the special as possible (all of the ingredients, number of pieces, size, price, etc.)
Train your employees to mention the offer before taking orders – it just may get someone to change their mind.
Incentivize your staff by providing a reward (cash, time off, special assignment) for selling the most LTOs. This method will also help you with employee retention.
Traditional marketing still works. Signage, table tents, box toppers, flyers, mailers – use anything that will catch the eye of a potential purchaser to promote your LTO.
Step 5: Evaluate results
After the special has run its course you will want to see if you met your goal so that you can make adjustments for your next one. Based on your original goal how did your LTO perform?
Did you increase traffic over the previous period or year? By how much?
How many specials did you sell during the offer period? By day? By week? Overall?
How many new customers did you add to your mailing list or loyalty program?
What was the average check size increase during the LTO period?
By putting together your LTO plan in advance, promoting it heavily while it is running and analyzing your results at the end, you will be setting yourself up for success. To help you get started, Grande has created a calendar template with activity timing, suggested menu items/recipes and success factors. Click here to download the calendar and LTO suggestions.