Why Do Fast Food Restaurants Have Limited-Time Offers

Fast food restaurants have become a staple in the lives of many people in the world. Whether you’re on your way to work, picking up dinner for the family, or just looking for something quick, fast food is always there with a smile and a wink.

However, every now and then we see these mysterious limited-time offers that are only available until the end of this month or while supplies last. A well marketed and implemented LTO (Limited-time offer) can be extremely valuable to the fast-food restaurant and there are quite many reasons why they actually offer LTO’s.

Fast food restaurants offer limited-time offers because they want to test new products, attract customers, and increase customer loyalty. In addition, limited-time offers are used because of seasonal products and the altering prices. Limited-time offers are carefully and strategically implemented.

When diving into the world of limited-time offers things can get pretty interesting really fast so next let’s see why do fast-food restaurants offer LTO’s more in-depth and see some additional aspects to the process.

Testing new products

Product testing is something that restaurants will always experiment with. Before taking a dish to the permanent menu it needs to be tested and analyzed on how did it perform. It would be silly to order huge quantities of ingredients and placing trust in a product or meal that hasn’t proven itself and if the customers wouldn’t like it it could result in massive money and credibility losses.

Attracting customers

If there’s something that a fast food restaurant relies on and couldn’t function without, it is obviously customers. Attracting new people and potential regular customers is really important to the restaurant’s plan so thats’ where limited-time offers come in. LTO’s are massive inducements and even if the actual meal wouldn’t be worth the fuss, the fact that it is only offered a certain period of time will be enough to flood the restaurant with curious customers.

However, the meal will need to be decent at least because if it is a complete flop, customers will be disappointed and that isn’t something that you should wish to the restaurant’s brand recognition.

Seasonal ingredients

There are a bunch of seasonal ingredients whom prices will vary greatly through the year. Especially in countries that have many climates within the year. Locally grown tomatoes, for example, can cost $1/kg(2.2lbs) in the summer but it can jump up to $5/kg(2.2lb) in the winter in some countries which is just unbelievable.

As we can see, fast food restaurants can take advantage of seasonal ingredients with great success. So when there is a chance for it, using the offer will be very beneficial and wise.

There are also many seasonal LTO’s that are beneficial without looking at the price tag. For example, slushies, frozen drinks, ice cream, and other refreshing foods and drinks will perform extremely well in the summer, and on the other hand pies, soups, warm sandwiches, and hot drinks such as coffee and tea will sell really well in the winter.

Increasing customer loyalty

Limited time offers can refresh the customer’s memories about a restaurant and lure them to try new amazing products when they have ”I need to get it before its gone” mentality. Loyal customers are where restaurants should focus because according to certain studies, loyal customers purchase 67% more than new ones and if that isn’t mind-blowing enough, approximately 20% of the customers are consistently returning ones, they provide 80% of the total revenue!

I know that you are amazed by these numbers and it would be a wonder if you weren’t, therefore it’s not a surprise for me to hear that fast food restaurants use limited-time offers constantly. Now, let’s take a look at some different LTO strategies that fast food restaurants use.

Event focused limited-time offers

These seasonal offers are based on a certain event, holiday, or other widely known things that are happening in the local area, or around the globe. For example, focusing LTO’s on the events and causes below will do very well.

  • Valentines day
  • St Patrick’s day
  • Christmas
  • Environment
  • Summer
  • Winter

Time focused limited-time offers

Let’s face it, fast food restaurants are made for fast orders and there are so many people out there that are in a hurry. Offering a quick menu item in a fast food restaurant can be extremely tempting for those that have a strict schedule. I have listed some great ideas for time-focused LTO below.

  • Sandwiches
  • Quick Chicken Pot Pies
  • Different pockets
  • Smoothies
  • Spiced coffees

When offering a limited-time offer, there is usually something special about them so it’s important to remember to spice them up a bit and offer something that isn’t available every day.

Unique focused limited-time offers

This is the most exciting limited-time offer in my opinion. Offering something that isn’t available anywhere in the nearby areas or something that hasn’t ever been offered in the specific fast food restaurant will turn all the eyes passing by towards the establishment.

With this opportunity, the restaurant can really stand out from other restaurants. If you’re able to come up with something that people love and others don’t have it yet, then there’s a good chance of raising your profile even more! You are probably heard of the Pumpkin Spice latte which is the perfect example of a successful scenario.

Price focused limited-time offers

Raising prices is not always the best strategy for restaurants. In some cases, it can be far better to have a limited-time offer at an extremely low price point in order to get customers into your restaurant and increase overall purchases of food from other menu items, despite no profit being made on that specific product. A good example of this kind of LTO is Burger King’s 10 chicken nuggets with only $2.

Out of stock focused limited-time offers

The restaurant’s limited supply will make the customers act fast and want a taste as soon as possible. The use of “act now before it is gone” or “while supplies last”, can grab their attention, get them excited, and have them practically running for that tasty dish!

Returning limited-time offers

There are so many great examples of legendary returning LTO’s such as the McRib or KFC’s Double Down. I must confess that this probably works the best for me personally when I see something that was once within grasp and one of my favorite dishes but it went away and then suddenly it’s available again. You should always have at least one returning limited-time offering in mind.

Customer-focused limited-time offers

These are focused on the customers and certain groups. For example, if the restaurant gets a lot of families, there could be a shareable family meal or a discounted family bundle. Or if young adults are the majority of the establishment, then an exciting drink or friend bundle could perform extremely well. Focusing LTO’s towards the customer base has been beneficial in the past.


In a world of limited-time offerings, it may seem impossible to choose the right approach. The tips above will be helpful even if they can overwhelm you on what direction to take. After all, there’s only one way to know how something works and that is by trying! What could possibly go wrong?

I personally am quality for falling to the attraction of limited-time offers and it’s quite funny because I know everything about how they work and still knowingly are affected by them. This if something is proof that they really work and if you aren’t yet experimenting with them in your restaurant, get started and see the fruit of your labor flooding in!

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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