3 successful LTO strategies

Dana Moran, Managing Editor

burger fries deluxe dining

While noncommercial menus are rife with customer favorites and best-sellers—those items operators can never take off the menu for fear of a revolt—limited-time offerings are a great way to make use of seasonal produce or flavors and give diners something new to look forward to.

peach tart almonds

When redesigning a patient-feeding kitchen at the University of Chicago Medical Center, MaryPat Severns, Aramark resident director of foodservices, decided to make LTOs a reality for her diners. “While you might have a menu with 50 entrees on it, and that’s plenty for a person on an average stay of 3.5 days, if you have to come back for various treatments often you want to see those specials,” she says of her patient diners. Since reopening in late 2016, the kitchen has been able to provide LTOs seasonally.

Here’s how three members of FoodService Director’s Chefs’ Council have successfully added LTOs to their menus.

1. A seasonal approach

cupid collection box

The dining team at Microsoft runs multiple LTOs throughout the year in its cafes and espresso stations, says Craig Tarrant, director of culinary operations for Compass Group, supporting Microsoft Real Estate and Facilities. While some are seasonal, others highlight local farm partnerships. A Cupid’s Collection box is on offer around Valentine’s Day ($7), featuring multiple seasonal treats such as a pink housemade fortune cookie, a macaroon, ganache cake and a chocolate-dipped strawberry. Housemade peach tarts spotlighting a local farm partner are available at all espresso stations in August while peaches are in season.

2. Themed tie-ins

cafe 16 farmers market

Metz Culinary Management in Dallas, Pa., builds its sustainable mindset into seasonal and new product rollouts that tie into a theme, such as annual sporting and social celebrations, says Ryan McNulty, director of culinary development. “I recently finished recipes for our upcoming Earth Day promotion that features ‘no bake’ dessert items to help conserve energy and focus on fresh, whole ingredients that don't require baking or cooking,” he says.

3. Lemons to lemonade

cilantro pesto shrimp

Sometimes what seems like an unfortunate situation can turn into a great LTO. When a catering event cancelled at the last minute, Darla Mehrkins—catering manager at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Va.—had already ordered and pulled product for a shrimp pesto pasta dish. Because she tries not to charge clients for product they don’t use, Mehrkins made a quick switch and served cilantro pesto bucatini with sauteed shrimp, charred okra and roasted tomato as an LTO instead. “It was a hit,” she says. “I ran out of product, and actually made more money on the demo than I would have with the catered lunch.”

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