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The Ultimate Guide to Running Successful Limited Time Offers

What are Limited Time Offers?

A limited time offer also known as an LTO, is a special menu item or items that are available for a short period of time. This includes seasonal items as well as discounts and promotions.

Restaurants use limited time offers, or LTOs, for numerous reasons:

  • They are a tried and true method for bringing in more traffic and driving more sales.
  • LTOs are a great way to roll out and test new menu items.
  • They can gain new customers and increase visits from familiar regulars.

But don’t rally the staff just yet. There is a lot of planning and prepping to do and a lot of focused LTO marketing to get started. Start with our LTO checklist for a smooth rollout.

Marketing Tips for Restaurant LTOs

Unfortunately, LTOs are not as simple as sketching up a sign with a sharpie and calling it “limited” or “special.” You have to think about the training, timing, and pricing of LTOs before you get started. Lucky for you, we provide an Essential LTO Rollout Checklist here.

Here are a few tips to get started:

Plan Around Seasonal Flavors/Ingredients

When planning seasonal #LTOs, it's important #restaurants consider seasonal flavors. #limitedtimeoffers Click To Tweet

FONA International created an amazing seasonal flavor guide that you can find here. In it, it details some of the top seasonal flavors and products produced in each one. When planning seasonal LTOs, it’s important restaurants consider seasonal flavors.

 Top Spring Flavors Top Summer Flavors  Top Fall Flavors  Top Winter Flavors



Guava & Mandarin



Lemon Lime




Root Beer



Pink Lemonade



Cola & Vanilla


Red/Green Grape


Pumpkin Spice



French Vanilla




Pumpkin Pie




Candy Cane

Egg nog



White Chocolate

Mint Chocolate




Spring LTO Example: Summer LTO Example: Fall LTO Example: Winter LTO Example:
Orange berry spring salad

Horchata ice cream

Honey braised salmon


Adult root beer floats

Blackberry cobbler ice cream

Lemon chicken piccata


Baked stuffed apples

Roasted squash with brown sugar

Butterscotch pudding


Peppermint hot chocolate

Egg nog pie

Gingerbread cookies


Plan Around a Holiday

Restaurant goers have come to expect special holiday menu items particularly at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Plan LTOs to coincide with holidays year-round to give your restaurant an extra boost.

#Restaurant goers have come to expect special holiday menu items particularly at Christmas and Thanksgiving. #limitedtimeoffers Click To Tweet

Evoke a Sense of Urgency and Scarcity

The best marketing approach for limited time offers is to evoke a sense of urgency and scarcity around the LTO. It goes without saying that LTOs are only available for a limited time, therefore, you can capitalize on that sense of urgency and incorporate the length of the special into all your marketing efforts. You can do this by offering a countdown until the LTO begins or send e-vites to customers to come try the item before it’s gone from the menu.

The best marketing approach for limited time offers is to evoke a sense of urgency and scarcity around the #LTO. #limitedtimeoffers Click To Tweet

Make it Exclusive

Make your LTO exclusive and offer something that consumers can’t get anywhere else. Try something that has never been done before.

Example: McDonald’s does an excellent job with this with their McRib sandwiches and Shamrock Shake. So much so, that these items have become synonymous with their brand.

Photo Credit: Mental Floss http://mentalfloss.com/article/29134/10-meaty-facts-about-mcrib

Be Clear about Start and End Dates

It’s important to determine clear beginning and end dates for the LTO, riding the fine line of making it long enough to get the optimal participation, but also short enough so that your customers get that sense of urgency along with the offer. You also want to be very clear about start and end dates so customers are well informed of when the offer is available.

Doing Two LTOs at Once

Some restaurants even find success in running long-term LTOs simultaneously with periodic short-term LTOs. An example of this might be all Winter long you offer a seasonal menu and throughout the month you offer different drink, entree, or dessert options. This strategy requires additional resource planning and thoughfulness, but can lead to a very successful LTO.

Have a Plan in Place

The key to running a successful campaign is strong marketing, therefore it’s important to map out a plan.

Download the Checklist

First thing’s first, get the checklist to start mapping out your strategy.

Staff Training

The staff should be well trained to recommend the promotion before and during transactions.

Store Signage and Local Store Marketing Materials

If funding allows, there is a plethora of signage and marketing materials you can get. Dot It has a large format print division that specializes in all of the following and more.

  • Banners
  • Window Graphics
  • Menus
  • Table Tents
  • POP Displays

Engage Your Top Marketing Channels

It’s best to set up marketing campaigns around all your main marketing channels: SEO/your website, email, paid search, content marketing, print ads, radio ads, social media. Prioritize your top three channels and do additional channels if you have additional time.

Example Limited Time Offer Marketing Plan

  • Press release
  • 2-3 Blogs
  • Homepage banner for website
  • Direct mail campaign to target local neighborhoods
  • Email drip campaign
  • Social posts (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
  • Store signage
  • Print ad in local magazine
  • Radio ad in local radio station

The key thing to remember is exposure—get the LTO out to your market as much as you can, before, during, and even after by highlighting the LTO’s successes.

Get Help With LTO Custom Print

If it seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Dot It helps restaurants manage their LTO custom print so all stores have what they need when they need it for launch day. Call us at 800-642-3687 or email sales@dotit.com to learn more about restaurant custom print options or to get a free quote.

Download our free Essential LTO Rollout Checklist and get the most out of your next big LTO!

By | 2019-03-05T16:04:59+00:00 July 31st, 2018|

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