3 ways to keep your LTO from falling flat

| by Matt MacInnis
3 ways to keep your LTO from falling flat

In the era of Instagram and Twitter, limited time offers have become a driving force behind revenue growth at the brands that have mastered them. Think Taco Fries. Think Unicorn Frappucino. Think IHOb. It's become a game of one-upmanship that shows no signs of abating. 

It's no wonder almost half of all consumers now try an LTO menu item every month, and over 30 percent of the 18 to 44-year-old crowd succumbs to the temptation every week. That's a lot of unicorn juice. 

Fast casual and quick service restaurants now run LTOs constantly, turning finicky consumers into frequent customers. It's the kind of opportunity for higher revenues, increased foot traffic, and newfound brand loyalty that has become table stakes in a business where every point of market share comes at the expense of a competitor.

LTOs come with challenges. The logistics of ramping a new menu item were daunting, even before you started doing it every month. So if your operations infrastructure isn't ready for the crush, your processes will eventually fail you, and CSAT will eventually flounder. It's not just the supply chain. It's kitchen workstation readiness, in-restaurant merchandising, manager training, employee training, and quality control, all taken in parallel, and on top of the challenges of your normal business.

The human element is, as always, the toughest. But a few brands have ramped more-than-monthly national LTOs with thousands of locations by simplifying a few elements of kitchen readiness.

1. Self-directed employee training

A lot is riding on your frontline employees to execute well. Nobody wants a sloppy menu item posted to Instagram. Ditch outdated training resources like PDFs and deliver training to employees on mobile devices. With digital content, the kitchen itself becomes the real-life ground, rather than a windowless room in the back. And we all know that the best way to retain new information is to practice it immediately.

2. Bite-sized learning 

With frequent LTOs, everyone's training constantly. There's no room for the painfully slow computer based training of yesteryear. Enter microlearning: it uses "experience design" for the delivery of small pieces of learning that employees can quickly and easily consume. Short videos are especially effective because they are easy to watch on a mobile device, and techniques can be emulated within the context of the job (again, in the kitchen).

By delivering training directly to employees in bite-sized pieces, you spur "active learning," which is associated with 90 percent knowledge retention and 50 percent more engagement. In case you need any more incentive to jump on the microlearning bandwagon, building this content takes 300 percent less time and costs 50 percent less. And yes, those exuberant cries of delight are coming from your content creation team. 

3. Real-time number crunching

Aside from the frustration created among field employees, the biggest downside to PDFs and paper training binders is the data-blindness. You have no idea how they're being used. You can't answer simple questions about training effectiveness and how prepared the workforce is to execute an LTO. Modern learning systems provide tons of information for measuring employee engagement, improving operations and efficiency, and enabling content creation teams to create and modify training based on actual usage data.

Best of all, you have the power to solidify the customer experience by correlating operational content usage to restaurant location sales and CSAT scores. Analytics help catch problems early and provide insight into why those issues arose in the first place. By monitoring employee engagement with CSAT, managers can make sure LTOs succeed on their watch.

LTOs can be executed to spec from the very first real-world order. The key is to develop a digital game plan that supports your employees — both at headquarters and at individual store locations — and to never forget that your frontline teams can make or break the success of your brand. Treat them to digital, and you'll be tasting the sweet flavor of success for many LTOs to come.

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Marketing

Matt MacInnis

Matt is the Founder and CEO of Inkling. His vision for the future of how people communicate drives Inkling’s strategy, product development and culture. He leads Inkling to make the world a smarter place. Prior to founding Inkling, Matt spent eight years at Apple, growing the use of its products in education and the sciences. He holds a Electrical and Computer Engineering degree from Harvard University

wwwView Matt MacInnis's profile on LinkedIn

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