Leverage Beverage LTOs to Engage Customers, Drive Sales

By Helen Griffith

Leverage Beverage LTOs to Engage Customers, Drive Sales

Nothing conveys urgency like a limited-time offer (LTO). The “get it now, before it’s gone” mentality encourages orders of LTOs, often on impulse, and has the potential to produce incremental sales for restaurants and attract new guests.

Promoting a beverage for a short time to gauge its menu potential is one way to approach an LTO. A strategic approach can make a significant difference to the bottom line.

“Really any food and beverage can work as an LTO, but if it’s going to be successful, it has to offer something that makes it special,” says Chef Eric Nakata, vice president of culinary and innovation for S&D Coffee & Tea. “The concept of the LTO is really about showcasing something new and different.” Apart from scarcity, in fact, one of the major advantages of an LTO is novelty. Promoting signature LTOs is a way to keep a menu current and engaging.

Operators can follow a number of paths to developing beverage LTOs.

Seasonal Sips

Seasonal sips. The mother of all seasonal drinks is pumpkin spice; it’s inspired coffee, ice cream, cereal—even cough drops. Its fans are legion, but there are many other seasonally inspired flavors with potential appeal for consumers as well. The key is to keep the time of year in mind. Winter is the time for cozy, warm, rich drinks like peppermint hot chocolate, gingerbread lattes or extra-spicy chai teas. Summer calls for fresh, crisp, fruity iced teas and signature cold brew sodas and cocktails.

According to research by FONA International, which supplies flavors to food, beverage and nutritional companies, 45% of consumers view seasonal flavors as a sign of freshness, and about two-thirds of them enjoy seasonal flavors across food and beverage categories. FONA also found that older millennials and Hispanic customers are most likely to embrace food and beverages spotlighting seasonal flavors.

Seasonal Sips

Holidays, events and other tie-ins. The holiday season is a time for nostalgia and celebrations, and beverages that align with the mood are positioned for success. Indulgent drinks laced with flavored liqueurs or syrups, topped with whipped cream and crushed peppermint sticks, chocolate shavings or holiday-tinted sprinkles; eggnog-flavored lattes and chais; Christmas cookie–inspired drinks and other choices add to the festive nature of the holidays. Themed promotions—drinks tied to popular culture and high-profile events (World Series, Big Game, college team rivalries, Fourth of July, blockbuster movies, fantasy television shows, popular games or races)—resonate with avid fans and provide Instagrammable moments.

Aside from timing, the next-most-important key to a successful beverage LTO is marketing. Table tents, menu inserts, posters, social media and other methods can fuel demand and mine customers’ fear of missing out.

In this age of social media sharing, the right LTO can go viral, encouraging word-of-mouth promotion that will drive even more sales. An extreme example is the Unicorn Frappuccino from Starbucks, available for only a few days, which spurred millions of social media shares and a flurry of orders.

On-trend and seasonal LTOs demonstrate creativity and innovation. They create a gateway to attract new guests while surprising and delighting regulars. Beverage LTOs that are well crafted, timed and promoted can profit from consumers’ quest for something special.