Create Better Limited Time Offers for Your Restaurant With These 9 Tips

By Raubi Perilli

      Feb 13, 2020     Solutions    

Restaurants must come up with creative ways to drive both existing and new customers to their business. One way they can do that is through limited-time offers.

What’s a Limited Time Offer?

A limited time offer, or LTO, in the restaurant industry, is a promotion that features a specialty menu item that is only available for a select period of time.

In other industries, an LTO may refer to a deal or discount that is only available for a limited time. But in the restaurant space, limited time offers usually refer to promoting specialty, limed-release food items.  

Examples of limited-time offers are McDonald’s Shamrock Shake which is only available in the weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s Day or Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte which is only available in the fall.

Why Should Restaurants Run Limited Time Offers?

Limited time offers are powerful marketing promotions for restaurants for a few reasons: 

  • Play into the fear of missing out (FOMO)
  • Add urgency that drives customers to a restaurant
  • Bring in new customers
  • Encourage existing customers to return
  • Generate media attention
  • Allow brands to try out potential new menu items

9 LTO Best Practices For Your Restaurant

Use the following tips to come up with restaurant limited time offers that both new and existing customers will love.

#1) Embrace novelty.

As you start to brainstorm ideas for your restaurant's limited time offer, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Limited time offers often work well when they offer something unique that customers haven’t seen before. Customers crave novelty so don’t be afraid to try something unusual or even a little weird.

Image via @Starbucks Instagram

#2) Know your audience.

Knowing how far too push your idea and level of novelty of your limited time offer is much easier when you know your audience. When you intimately know your customers, it will be easier to design a new item they would enjoy. For example, a health-conscious fresh-pressed juice business would know not to introduce a high-calorie ice-cream based smoothie.

Recommended Reading: Use This Template to Create Your Restaurant Marketing Plan

#3) Pull in seasonal flavors.

People crave different types of flavors at different times of the year. To create an LTO, consider what types of flavors that people want to see for each season and use them to create a variation of other popular menu items or to create something entirely new.  

Need some seasonal flavor ideas? Check out this list from FONO.

#4) Add in seasonal foods.

Seasons don’t just bring flavors; they also bring foods that aren’t available at other times of the year. Consider farming and fishing schedules to find other ingredients or main food items that you may want to add to your menu. For example, add some butternut squash when it’s the best in early fall, or add some fresh fish to your menu when it’s wild salmon season.  

Get inspiration for seasonal menu items. Check out Seasons 52, a restaurant that revises their menu every season to coincide with the best seasonal ingredients available.

Image via @Seasons52 Instagram

#5) Try to stick with many of the ingredients you already have.

While it's a good idea to bring in one or two new seasonal ingredients for your limited time offer, you don’t want to create menu items that come with a long list of ingredients your restaurant doesn’t normally carry. Filling your shelves with ingredients that you can only use in one limited time offer can lead to overstocking, expiration, and unnecessary costs.

#6) Tie into a national trend or upcoming event.

For more inspiration for your LTO, look at national trends or events. Limited time offers related to hot topics or big occasions can tie your restaurant to current events as well as help with grabbing media attention. Media outlets often look for supporting stories to big national trends. So they may be likely to cover a limited time offer like a loaded ballpark hotdog for opening day of the MLB or a white iced latte with blue rock candy during the release of Frozen 2.

Pro Tip: Don’t use specific brand names if you don’t have licensing rights. Instead, play off themes and concepts when creating trendy LTOs.

#7) Tie into a local trend or upcoming event.

Connecting with national trends and events is great -- but connecting with local trends and events can be even better. Small brands and local locations of national brands can connect with their community by featuring limited time offer menu items that relate to local events and trends. Here’s a great example of how a Tampa bakery created a limited “Freak Shake” for the week leading up to Lizzo’s concert. It attracted media attention -- as well as Lizzo herself!

Image via @Lizzobeeating Instagram

#8) Use the LTO to boost up-sells and cross-sells.

To get the most out of your limited time offer and make the most profit from your sales, tie you featured menu item to other things on your menu. Consider what high-margin items you can tie to your featured item to make an up-sell or cross-sell. For example, if your LTO is a specialty cocktail, tie it to a high-margin appetizer on your menu and position it as a featured combo. 

#9) Take high-quality photos of the new menu item.

To generate interest in your LTO, you need to market it across multiple marketing channels using high-quality photos. Take professional photos and feature them on your social media channels, digital menus, and table tents. Limited time offer menu items that photograph well will spread on social media as well as encourage guests to take photos and create their own user-generated content that helps promote the LTO even more.

Image via @Datz4Foodies Instagram

Recommended Reading: 9 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Restaurant's Website

Let Local Customers Know About Your Limited Time Offers

Even if you follow these tips and create a can’t-miss limited time offer that customers can resist, no one will be in your store to try it if it doesn’t have the right promotion.  

Build smart marketing campaigns around your LTO and work with local marketing experts like MyArea Network to make sure that nearby customers are aware of and excited about your restaurant's limited time offer.  

See how MyArea Network can help you promote your LTO and create other powerful local marketing campaigns. Schedule your free local marketing review today.