California Tortilla COO shares top LTO-mastering tips
California Tortilla Chef and Co-founder Keith Goldman said more than 80 percent of the brand’s current permanent menu was at one time a LTO and believes constant innovation is what makes California Tortilla stand out from competition.
By Keith Goldman, California Tortilla, chef, co-founderandCOO
What fun is it to operate a restaurant brand if you can't innovate with fresh ingredients and create new flavors your customers will crave? Restaurant brands have the ability to stand out with unique and adventurous menu items, so culinary teams should be highly motivated to bring a steady flow of new creations to market.
Great-tasting LTOs are fun and exciting for the restaurant operators to prepare and keeps guests anticipating what will come next. I am truly surprised that more chains do not utilize limited-time offers more often. At California Tortilla, more than half of our current menu is comprised of our best-selling LTOs. If you don't continue to evolve your menu, customers will eventually get bored and encounter menu burnout. I believe it is imperative for restaurants to stay lead the charge with changing food trends.
How do you begin?
Start with a flavor trend. Look at food trade publications, visit new concepts, study what is gaining popularity in the big cities and you'll discover what new foods consumers are leaning toward. Then with a flavor in mind, you can begin to develop a great-tasting product. LTOs centered around new flavor trends require careful planning, plenty of testing and should start with an element of authenticity.
For example, when we created our version of Korean BBQ at California Tortilla, it was important that the main ingredient, Korean BBQ Sauce, was true to its origin. After research, trial and error, we discovered Gojuchang (red chili paste) was the key ingredient to making an authentic-tasting sauce. When you arrive at the point of testing your recipe, you need to make sure the item is simple enough to execute easily within your system. It is critical that the Culinary Team understands the mechanics of the restaurant and the skill level available to execute a new menu item. The item also needs to be financially smart. Bringing in new products for LTOs require working closely with your distributors to find ingredients they have access to and establishing inventory pars that will be depleted by the end of the offering period. Most important, LTOs should be profitable for the operator and affordable for your guests.
Once you have the perfect LTO, implementing it within your restaurants is key. Provide an LTO kit for each restaurant to include detailed information about the new products complete with training guides and how-to videos. It is also a best practice to have corporate trainers visit each store to train operators and team members how to properly execute the new menu items. Additionally, you need a great marketing campaign. A great-tasting product will pique the attention of customers provided they know about it. Digital marketing and social media are effective tools for spreading the word. Have a professional photo shoot, create posters, register and table toppers and more. An important aspect to note – the food should look just like the photos.
LTOs typically perform well because when customers trust the brand they tend to want to try something new. At California Tortilla, the benchmark to tell if an LTO performs exceptionally well is if it accounts for 20-25 percent sales of a particular menu item category or 5-10 percent of total sales. If your LTO performs well, consider adding it to the regular menu. Another option is to choose to bring the offer back seasonally as a recurring menu item that guests look forward to each year.
Limited-time offers can distinguish a restaurant. Push your culinary boundaries and in the end, constant menu innovation will make your restaurant stand out amongst the competition.
Topics: Trends / Statistics