Earlier this August, I attended IFMA’s Marketing & Sales Leaders Forum, where sessions featuring Datassential and NPD Group were really the highlight of the event for me. This is mainly because, as I’ve stated before, I’m a total marketing data nerd. When they started speaking about how today’s menus– especially for casual dining – really need to tell a story rather than just have a pretty plate of food, the message really resonated with me as both a foodservice marketer and as a frequent diner.
So many people today are focused on the overall experience of dining out. It’s not just about dining out to dine out, but rather to have this awesome experience every time you do dine, and that puts a lot of pressure on the restaurant owners. But it’s become a commonplace thought among diners.
It would seem the easiest way to bring a new experience to a restaurant you frequent often would be by offering unique Limited Time Offer (LTO) deals. LTO’s are nothing new in the restaurant industry, but the way consumers see them is going to have to change for them to be more effective moving forward for your business.
According to Datassential’s research, 45 percent of diners believe LTOs are marketing ploys unless it’s something they really can’t get anywhere else. Like the original Cronut for example! However, people are still trying new items on their visits to restaurants. Thirty percent of people said they had tried a new item on their last visit to a restaurant, but only 10 percent said that was an LTO. This data point just proves the point that consumers want unique dining experiences when trying new foods at their favorite restaurants.
So how do you accomplish that as a restaurant operator?
One way is to have your LTO tell a story. For example, Red Robin has recently been partnering with movies like Wolverine and Hercules to put together exclusive burgers that are relevant to those movies. The Wolverine burger was bold and packed a spicy punch and even had the signature slashes from the Wolverine character’s claws on the bun! It was unique and different and sold very well.
Making your LTO unique in that the diner really truly can’t get it anywhere else is also extremely effective and not only has the food telling a story, but has your brand telling a story. Items like Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen’s Chicken Waffle Tenders and Wendy’s pretzel burgers drew consumers in because you couldn’t get them at any other quick serve restaurant.
I would recommend trying LTOs out on lower cost items like beverages, snacks or desserts. These items also seem less risky for diners to try because they are small and aren’t part of your entire meal, so it’s less of a commitment to the diner.
Just remember that telling a story and being completely and utterly unique is a game changer in the current market!