5 Things to Do to Guarantee a Successful Restaurant LTO

Arbys Smokehouse Brisket  | NextRestaurants

LTOs (limited-time offers) are a staple in the restaurant industry and for good reason.

A recent Technomic study suggests that half of Millennials and Gen Xers enjoy being the first of their friends to try an LTO menu item. That is nuts, isn’t it?

But there are some things you need to think through before rushing to launch your next one, in order to guarantee a successful restaurant LTO. Let’s talk about ‘em.

1. Have a crystal-clear idea of whom your LTO is targeting.

Okay, so maybe you can’t determine what flavors or tastes are going to resonate with a 55-year-old versus a 23-year-old. But you can pinpoint your messaging and marketing to attract your target audience.

Let’s say you choose the 23-year-old. What’s going on in the mind of a 23-year-old that you could latch onto with your marketing? (If you don’t know, YIKES, how are you going after Millennials?) What are they thinking about? What memes are bouncing around the Interwebs?

2. Where can you intercept your target audience with your LTO?

Not only is it important to know whom you want to focus your offer on, but you’ve got to think through the best channel to deliver that offer. What websites or apps are they visiting where you could intercept them with relevant posts and ads? Facebook? Pandora? Twitter? Instagram? Spotify? Snapchat? Or hey, why not Tinder?

How about the time of day — when does it make sense to schedule these posts and ads in order to capture your target audience in-the-moment? Not AT lunch time, but maybe right before? Not during Happy Hour, but again, right before? Or heck, maybe at Midnight or after?

3. Make your LTO’s uniqueness stand out.

If you’ve got an offer that’s built around a seasonal flavor, highlight that special feature of the LTO. Pumpkin-flavored Anything is going to start pummeling its way into our brains — are you doing something with this? How badly I crave pumpkin-spice donuts this time of year — and can’t find them anywhere. Or is there another flavor besides pumpkin that makes sense for your brand?

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Beyond flavors built around the fall season, what else is happening right now? Football. Baseball playoffs. The new fall TV programming is hitting the airwaves. Your LTO can leverage any of these factors, if you’re creative.

4. Emphasize the LT in LTO.

If it’s going to be a limited-time offer, it has to be limited in its time availability, you know? Some of the power of an LTO comes in the scarcity of it. Seems like a no-brainer, but the greater the amount of time your LTO is available, the less fun and unique it is.

You want people who didn’t get to try THIS LTO to jump in early on the next one.

5. Build social sharing and social rewards into your LTO.

I’m surprised at the number of restaurants who still fail to do this. You’ve got a rare menu item that’s not going to be around for long. You need to build instant excitement around the LTO since it’s not going to last. Social media is custom-built for people to share the special, unique, rare moments in their life. The LTO is a perfect match with social media marketing.

Encourage people who’ve tried your LTO to tweet about it. Nudge them to use specific hashtags. Retweet and re-post their social shares. Reward those were the first 100 to shared their positive experience on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Clearly you don’t want to build an over-reliance upon LTOs to drive your sales, where customers are only or always looking for a deal. But you can build more fun and anticipation into your brand by adding important elements to your restaurant’s marketing with LTOs.

(Photo courtesy of Arby’s.)

About the author

Brandon Hull

Brandon is the original founder of He has helped thousands of restaurants implement innovative marketing strategies, campaigns, and tactics by incorporating new technology, in order to attract loyal guests.