The Practical Reason Fast Food Chains Have Limited-Time Menu Items

Limited-time offers (LTO) are an essential part of growing your business in the fast-food industry as it provides a changing menu that may keep returning customers intrigued. An LTO also lets you test a consumer's response to possible permanent menu expansion with new food options. It also shows your customer that your establishment can stay on top of trends. However, the most practical reason to switch up menu items is that LTOs allow a fast-food chain to take advantage of seasonal foods.

When the summer season hits, people are more inclined to order certain items. For example, the Chicago Tribune reports on a study done by the NPD group, that from June through August, people were 3.36 times more likely to buy ice cream than from December through February, when dining in a restaurant.

Consequently, during the summer months, the practical thing to do is to add cold LTO items like frozen desserts or fresh salads. Conversely, during the winter season, it is a wise idea to focus on items such as hot chocolate or soup.

Holidays also provide an opportunity to add limited-time menu items

In the same vein as seasons, holidays offer an ideal time to spice up the menu with a special LTO. One of the most popular examples of this strategy is McDonald's Shamrock Shake. This iconic LTO was introduced over 50 years ago, and it continues to boost holiday traffic by drawing both nostalgic and new customers to the store. Similarly, Chick-fil-A's Peppermint Chip Milkshake creates a reason for festive consumers to make sure they visit the chain during the winter holiday season.

Some crafty fast-food chains use LTOs that are a menu item, but do not directly involve food, to bring more people into the store during a particular holiday. Again, McDonald's may be the best example of this as after a six-year absence, in 2022, the company brought back its popular "Boo Bucket." This item was so hot that McDonald's couldn't even keep it in stock for the entire holiday season.