Summer LTOs focus on providing healthful options

| by Cherryh Cansler
Summer LTOs focus on providing healthful options

Summer is officially here, which means several restaurants have created LTOs specifically designed around celebrating summer and providing customers with a variety of healthy options. Below are just a few offerings that will be gone with the summer heat.

Uncle Maddio's adds strawberries

Uncle Maddio's Pizza has added a Strawberry Summer Salad to the menu, which will be available through the end of summer. It includes candied walnuts, goat cheese, fresh sliced strawberries, red onions and crispy bacon atop a bed of mixed greens and is tossed in a homemade white balsamic bacon vinaigrette and drizzled with a balsamic glaze. 

"For those who crave something lighter during the hot summer months, our new Strawberry Salad is the perfect mix of sweet and savory," Matt Andrew, Uncle Maddio’s CEO said in a company press release. "Our salads are made fresh in-house every day and are always a great way to eat your veggies."

Robeks powers up smoothies

Robeks Fresh Juices and Smoothies is introducing a few summer menu items, including a superfood-powered smoothie with spirulina, flax seed and turmeric.

"We felt that with a change in the industry, especially as consumers are becoming more educated on various health attributes, we wanted to make sure that our product mix fit exactly what consumers were coming in our stores looking for," Robeks Director of Marketing Matt Furman said in a company press release.

Other alterations to the menu include new bowl offerings. Robeks President David Rawnsley, who is also a franchisee, recognized the benefit the larger and "easier to eat" bowls bring to the company's stores.

"We've seen tremendous growth in the bowl segment and worked to make sure our bowls met our customer's demands," he said.

Jason's Deli gets fishy

Jason's Deli has created the Salmon Pacifica Salad in accordance with the American Institute of Cancer Research and World Research Fund guidelines for cancer risk reduction.

At only 450 calories, the salad includes a combination of nutrient-rich ingredients, including wild-caught Alaska sockeye salmon served on USDA-certified organic field greens topped with fresh-chopped avocado, grape tomatoes, fire-roasted Piquillo peppers, cucumbers, pickled red onions and cucumber-dill vinaigrette, according to a company press release.

"Our alliance with Jason's Deli is based on our mutual interest in providing people with accessible and healthy dining options, especially promoting a diet that is largely plant-based and may have the potential to reduce the risk of cancer," said Dr. Therese Bevers, who is a professor of clinical cancer prevention at MD Anderson. "There are simple steps people can take to reduce the chances of a future cancer diagnosis."

The alliance was originally launched in 2013, after several Jason's Deli employees and their family members rebounded from cancer after MD Anderson treatment. Since then Jason's Deli has donated more than $726,000 to the world-renowned cancer center, according to the release.

"Everyone knows someone whose life has been touched by the disease, and the same is true for many of our employees and their families," said Joe Tortorice Jr., founder of Jason's Deli, in a news release. "It's the reason why we are deeply committed to supporting cancer prevention through high-quality, healthy menu options and to funding research that makes a life-giving difference for people today and for generations to come."

Bruegger's launches LTOs inspired by farmers' markets

Bruegger's Bagels is debuting summer menu items inspired by the fresh and vibrant flavors of local farmers' markets, according to a company press release.  

Limited-time menu items include Prez Mez, made with spicy guacamole, a seasoned fresh-cracked egg, peppered bacon and Swiss cheese on a Pretzel Bagel and the Sweet Georgia Turkey Sandwich, which features seasoned tomatoes and spicy peach preserves on butter-toasted tomato basil bread.

The chain has also created the Coconut Iced Coffee.

All the summer menu items are available through Sept. 12.

Qdoba bets on shrimp

Qdoba Mexican Eats has added Fire-Roasted Shrimp to the menu in honor of summer, according to a company press release. Customers can try it one of the following ways:

  • Surf and Turf Burrito Bowl, which combines the shrimp with grilled steak layered on a bed of cilantro lime rice and topped off with black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo and freshly made chimichurri sauce.
  • Tropical Shrimp Taco with guacamole, house-made pineapple pico, lettuce and a sprinkle of Cotija cheese.
  • Fire-Roasted Shrimp Salad, which is tossed with sweetened pineapple pico, hand-smashed guacamole and cilantro lime dressing on a bed of lettuce served in a crunchy fried shell.

"Our new Fire-Roasted Shrimp adds a sprinkle of summer to the menu," said Jeffrey Van Hanswyk director of culinary and menu innovation. "Matching citrus with chili pepper flavors, our chefs developed these three recipes to perfectly complement this craveable protein."

Qdoba's Fire-Roasted Shrimp

Wildflower Bread Company gets fresh

Wildflower Bread Company is highlighting the fresh flavors of summer with several LTOs.

"Our summer menu highlights fresh, simple ingredients that celebrate the flavors of summer," Lacey Hudgins, director of product development, said in a company press release. "We continue to seek out elevated, unique ingredients that will surprise and delight our guests, the wild Alaskan salmon, tender pea shoots, and beautiful watermelon radish are standouts. Along with introducing exciting new flavors, we brought back a guest favorite, the Ultimate Bacon & Egg Sandwich."

Summer additions include:  

  • Salmon BLT&E Sandwich, seared wild Alaskan salmon, sunny egg, feta cheese, pepper aioli, fresh basil and tomatoes on grilled brioche with a side of mixed chips.  
  • Summer Garden Salad, combines locally grown, organic pea shoots, watermelon radish, field greens, feta, scallions, toasted sunflower seeds and avocado tossed with lemon citrus dressing.
  • Spicy Lemon Penne Pasta, sautéed chicken breast, garlic, hot peppers, fresh tomatoes, spinach, pea shoots, scallions, petite peas, basil and feta in a lemon vegetable sauce.
  • The Ultimate Bacon & Egg Sandwich, includes bacon, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese with slow-roasted tomatoes, arugula and pesto on a grilled brioche roll.

Cowboy Chicken creates summer offerings

Cowboy Chicken is gearing up for the season with a scorching-hot lineup of new sandwiches, sides and salads, Sean Kennedy, president and CEO of Cowboy, said in a company press release.

Leading the charge is a pair of Texas-sized sandwiches, the Laredo with rotisserie chicken breast topped with house-made guacamole, chipotle mayo, seasoned chicken cracklins and melted cheese on a toasted bun. The BBQ chicken sandwich comes with pulled chicken slathered with Cowboy Chicken’s BBQ sauce and melted cheese, also served on a toasted bun.

Guests can complement the sandwiches with a pair of sides newly added to the regular menu. The roasted veggies side boasts a skillet filled with cauliflower, broccoli, red onion and carrots, while the Kaleblazer slaw is a mix of kale, Brussels sprouts, Napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, radicchio, cranberries and slivered almonds, drizzled with a blush wine vinaigrette, according to the release.

Guests can also order watermelon slices as a side or try watermelon tea.

Lastly, the chain is also sevrving a couple new salads, including the Monterey, the Southwest chicken salad, the West Texas Caesar, the tangy tomato and cucumber and the fresh and the a garden salad.

Cousins says cheese

Cousins Subs has created the' "Big Cheese" sub, featuring chicken or steak fresh off the grill topped with bacon, sautéed onions, Wisconsin cheddar cheese, sharp cheese sauce made locally and the sub shop's Wisconsin Cheese Curds.

"This June marks Cousins' 45 years of serving Wisconsinites, and we wanted to bring festival goers a sub rich in local flavor that is both commemorative of our heritage and unique for Summerfest's 50th," Justin McCoy, vp of marketing at Cousins Subs, said in a company press release. "We encourage everyone to sink their teeth into indulgence and celebrate all that makes Wisconsin's food culture iconic."

Watermelon Berry returns to Project Juice

Project Juice, which specializes in cold-pressed juice, has brought back its Watermelon Berry blend for the summer and is also promoting food sustainability with the use of 50 percent "ugly" produce, according to a company press release.

Project Juice's Watermelon Berryblend

"We are excited to bring back this fan-favorite juice for the summer season," Project Juice Co-founder Marra St. Clair said in the release. "It is the most delicious combo of the season's flavors and delivers amazing hydration for hot days."

Watermelon Berry is made with watermelon, strawberries, green apple, Young Coconut Water and lime.

Au Bon Pain testing lobster, Mediterranean chicken

The culinary team at Au Bon Pain has created a few seasonal recipes in hopes of giving customers a reprieve from the heat, according to a company press release. They include:

  • Lobster Sandwich,  lobster  mixed with the ABP signature herb blend and served on a freshly baked buttery croissant.
  • Herb Chicken Salad Sandwich, which features antibiotic-free chicken mixed with the ABP herb blend and avocado dressing, topped with cucumbers, shredded carrots, tomatoes and field greens and served on a toasted semolina baguette.  The Herb Chicken Salad is also now available on a fresh roll and side salad in a Bon To Go box. Bon to Go boxes are healthy and convenient go-to items for snack time or to make a small meal. Most of these newly introduced items have 12 grams or more of protein and 390 or fewer calories, according to the release.
  • Mediterranean Chicken & Tabouli Salad, combines chicken, romaine, spinach, tabouli, chickpea tomato salad, feta cheese, kalamata olives, cucumbers, shredded carrots, grape tomatoes and lemon shallot vinaigrette.
  • New desserts, including Lemon Blueberry Muffin and a Peach Danish

"At Au Bon Pain, every season brings a new opportunity for inspiration and the creation of delicious recipes. I love the lightness and brightness of summer and wanted to bring those tones into our new items," said Corporate Executive Chef Katherine See, in a news release. "In keeping with our commitment to being a true food innovator, each of these dishes has passed our rigorous internal development process. And as with our entire menu, every item is sliced, cut, baked and hand-made fresh daily in each café to ensure the highest-quality meal possible for our guests."

The summer menu is available through Aug. 28.

Togo's talks turkey

Togo's Eateries has created "The Best Turkey Sandwiches Ever,"oven-roasted, deli-style turkey breast(s) hand-sliced daily and piled with a quarter-pound of turkey, according to a company press release.

The classic No. 3 Turkey & Cheese and the iconic No. 24 Turkey & Avocado have been transformed to further enhance the flavor of the sandwich, according to the release. Togo's will now place the turkey on top of the produce, rather than underneath it, so the turkey flavor is the first thing that customers taste when they enjoy their sandwich, said Glenn Lunde, president of Togo's

"Togo's has been famous for its big, fresh and meaty turkey sandwiches for over 45 years. We set out to provide our customers the best turkey sandwiches ever, starting with even better ingredients and bigger portions," he said in the release. "But we also wanted to do something more creative to further intensify the turkey flavor, and that is why we changed the fundamental way we build our sandwiches."

Customers will also find a dramatically improved in-store experience with an entirely new menu board, Lunde said.  

Yogurtland embraces nostalgia with summer offerings

Yogurtland has debuted five scratch-made flavors reminiscent of family outings and warm summer nights, according to a company press release.

The flavors, available from June 5 to August 6, are:

  • Home Grown Watermelon Sorbet
  • Sun Kissed Strawberry Shortcake
  • Sweet n' Smooth Peaches and Cream Gelato
  • Larger Than Life Mud Pie
  • Picnic Favorite Apricot Mango Tart

"Our fans visit Yogurtland to enjoy and celebrate life's special moments. The personalized experience lets fans craft their ultimate treat and choose the flavors and toppings they are craving. We are especially excited to introduce Watermelon Sorbet, a flavor our fans have been craving for some time," said Chad Bailey, senior director of marketing and R&D at Yogurtland in a company press release.

Boston Market answers the call for a healthier chicken strip

In hopes of giving customers a healthier option when it comes to chicken strips, Boston Market now through Aug. 13 is serving oven-crisp chicken strips. According to a company press release, the all-white meat is hand-breaded and baked — not fried — for a healthier, crispier crunch.

According to a survey conducted by Boston Market, 71 percent of parents said that chicken is a favorite food among their children during the summer, more than cookies (56 percent) and even cake or pie (45 percent). But, children aren't alone on that front as one quarter of all U.S. adults say that if they were ever stranded on a desert island, they would most crave chicken. In fact, 83 percent of adults said they experience food cravings in a typical week, and 72 percent say they will seek out something crispy to satisfy those cravings.

Answering that "crispy call" this summer, Boston Market is rolling out a "No Fry Friday" program this month where guests can enjoy different deals on Oven-Crisp Chicken Strips each Friday from June 9 to June 30.

"With nearly half of Americans preferring baked over fried foods, we're excited to introduce Oven-Crisp Chicken Strips as a new way for guests to enjoy the better-for-you crunch they crave," said Boston Market CEO George Michel, also known as "The Big Chicken," said in a news release. "Last year Oven Crisp Chicken was an instant hit among our guests and we're eager to hear what they think of our new Oven-Crisp Chicken Strip varieties."

Rubio' expands seafood offerings with wild grouper

Rubio's Restaurants has added wild grouper to its summer menu. Developed by co-founder Ralph Rubio and the culinary team, Rubio's Wild Grouper dish comes with grilled or house-blackened wild grouper served on a flour tortilla which is then topped with mango salsa, cabbage, chipotle white sauce, and handmade guacamole made with Hass avocados, cilantro, lime and sea salt.

"We take pride in offering chef-crafted tacos and burritos that feature innovative flavors and quality ingredients. Our Wild Grouper with Mango Salsa is a great example of this with its sweet and tangy flavors that add a nice tropical complement to the fish." said Rubio said in a company press release. "We chose wild grouper for its mild flavor and firm texture, and because of its popularity in Florida. We're excited to add this quality fish to our seafood menu, and hope our guests enjoy it all summer long."

The company recently announced it has also removed artificial flavors and food coloring from artificial sources from its core menu.


Topics: Food & Beverage

Cherryh Cansler

Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for

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