Circana Report Reveals the Strategic Influence and Timeless Impact of Limited-Time Offers in Shaping Consumer Behavior

91% of consumers report they are more likely to visit a chain if they provide limited-time offers or new items

Limited-time offers (LTOs), a long-standing tradition in the foodservice industry, play a pivotal role in generating buzz, fostering variety and influencing consumer behavior. In a new report, Circana™, a leading advisor on the complexity of consumer behavior, analyzes over 30 unique LTOs, utilizing its longitudinal receipt panel and buyer recontact surveys to delve into the nuances of buyer behavior across diverse categories, including beverages, main dishes, side dishes, desserts and breakfast items.

LTOs are revealed to build excitement for all consumers and drive engagement with existing, heavier buyers. As heavy buyers naturally fade, LTOs emerge as tactical approaches to maintain engagement and boost spending. The report highlights the delicate balance of addressing cannibalization risks by implementing strategic pricing, targeting specific behaviors and introducing LTOs with premium features, or targeting new behaviors such as individual portions or breakfast items.

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“Nostalgia is a powerful ingredient in the recipe for LTO success, targeting older consumers by resurrecting previously discontinued menu items,” said David Portalatin, senior vice president and industry advisor, Food and Foodservice, Circana. “While LTOs are designed to be temporary, their impact on the perception of a brand is lasting, contributing to maintaining a positive brand image even after the limited-time offer concludes.”

Innovation doesn’t always demand a revolutionary concept; sometimes, simplicity prevails. Chipotle introduced the Chicken al Pastor as an LTO in the spring of 2023, captivating the taste buds of its customer base, with a quarter of their buyers actively participating during the offer period. The Chicken al Pastor not only engaged existing buyers, but also drove those buyers to spend more compared with their previous visits.

Priced slightly higher than the regular chicken offering, over two-thirds of buyers considered it to be of very or fairly good value for the price, contributing to an increased party check. Impressively, nearly 80% of Chicken al Pastor buyers expressed an intention to visit Chipotle more frequently, showcasing the LTO’s influence in reshaping consumer behavior and fostering brand loyalty. Chipotle’s success with the Chicken al Pastor underscores the pivotal role that carefully crafted and strategically priced LTOs can play in driving customer engagement and market competitiveness.

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behaviorCircanaConsumer Behaviorfostering brand loyaltyLimited-Timelimited-time offerslong-standing traditionLTOsNews