Winterize Your Upcoming LTOs
The winter season brings a variety of opportunities for seasonal ingredients and flavors. Explore all menu sections and dish types for ways to sprinkle in quick, buzz-generating specials with seasonal accents.
Comfort food in general remains popular year-round, but winter is the time to bring on the steaming, bubbling, and braised dishes and cooking methods.
Pho, soup, and ramen are the three menu items that showed the most growth in delivery orders from summer 2021 to winter 2021-2022, according to DoorDash.1 These indicate winter mood-food hankerings operators may want to explore for seasonal-special opportunities.
In winter 2022, Chick-fil-A ran a satiating Chicken Tortilla Soup LTO that included not only shredded chicken breast, but navy beans, black beans, onions, celery, red bell peppers, and more.2 Salad chain Salad and Go ran a Chicken Pot Pie Soup LTO last winter that it described as creamy chicken soup with mixed vegetables.3
Considering menu sections, breakfast is the perfect daypart to combine comfort food with indulgence and seasonal flavors. Meanwhile, Pete’s Coffee ran a Chicken & Waffle Sandwich special it described as two maple waffles topped with toasted Gouda cheese and wrapped around chicken sausage, bacon, and a sweet & spiced spread.4
Come January, it’s time to recalibrate to New Year's health-centered LTOs. January is the second leading month (behind June) for salad launches.5 The poultry you used for holiday and comfort-food specials works equally well as the satiating protein in new salads, hearty bowls, and stir frys that call on global and regional flavors.
The Thai Basil Chicken Bowl launched by BD’s Mongolian Grill last January combined chicken with scallions, sugar snap peas, black pepper, and Thai basil lime sauce over riced cauliflower.6 Northeast stir-fry and salad chain Honeygrow also called on cauliflower for its January 2023 winter Buffalo Chicken Stir-Fry LTO. It featured wheat noodles, roasted chicken, roasted cauliflower, carrots, jalapeno peppers, blue cheese, celery, buffalo sauce and ranch dressing.7
For an extra poultry health halo, lean into customers looking for healthier options in the New Year. Menuing chicken and turkey featuring claims such as organic, no antibiotics ever, and all vegetarian fed with no animal byproducts can appeal to health-minded consumers. Be sure to call these claims out on your menu so customers can easily find the attributes they’re looking for.
Above all, as you ponder new items to fit any of the three winter mood foods, start with the dishes, ingredients, and flavors you know that consumers crave in order to find growth opportunities for your brand.
Content courtesy of Perdue Foodservice
1“Winter Food Trends: How Restaurants Can Prepare For the Holiday Season,” DoorDash, Dec. 13, 2022
2Thorn, Bret “Menu Tracker: New Items From Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, and Wendy’s,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Nov. 18, 2022
3Thorn, Bret, “Menu Tracker: New Items From McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Shake Shack,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Nov. 11, 2022
4Thorn, Bret, “Menu Tracker: New Items From Dunkin, Dutch Bros, and Caribou Coffee,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Nov. 4, 2022
5Datassential Seasonality report, 2023
6Thorn, Bret, “Menu Tracker: New Items From IHOP, Panera, and Pizza Hut,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Jan. 12, 2023
7Thorn, Bret, “Menu Tracker: New Items From IHOP, Panera, and Pizza Hut,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Jan. 12, 2023