The LTO Shell Game

Tim Doolittle

Consultant Chef C.Y. Hospitality

When considering a Limited Time Offer (or even a daily special) our first considerations should be things that are less obvious. For example, we should ask if the proposed item fits the concept. Is “Chez Pierre” the best venue for a carpaccio? Perhaps we should consider beef tartare instead. Probably the most important question should be whether or not the guests are inclined to be excited by a new offering and therefore order it. “Tomas Deli” might want to consider a tongue sandwich that appeals to both the older clients in their neighborhood as well as the hipster crowd that tends to hang around in the afternoon. Knowing what your clientele craves before they even realize it is a massive leg up. Listening to your crowd is important, but understanding them is useful and may allow restaurant operators to exceeding expectations.
In my years working in Las Vegas for Wolfgang Puck I saw this anticipatory menu design at work often. The Venetian has vast convention space to offer and was among the busiest properties on the Las Vegas strip. This was a blessing for the dozens of restaurants built to service them, but brought a host of challenges as well. For example, we would sometimes go from serving a couple hundred guests per shift to double that, or more. Labor allocation and preparation was critical to operating within our budget, no matter what volume we were achieving on a given day, so we often were pushed to our limits. One of the “best” crowds to wash over Venetian each year was “JCK”. This was an annual meeting of Gemologists, diamond traders, jewelers and all the related businesses to the bling industry. During this trade we offered an amazing falafel special. It was an item they knew would appeal to the high number of Jewish diamond traders from across the globe. This item would only appear on our menu during this particular week. People would trek from all corners of the Strip to our doors for their yearly treat of fresh, amazing falafel. The operators of our restaurant were pros at recognizing what a particular crowd would consider special or extraordinary. When the construction, outdoor, or gun crowd was in town we would offer large, expensive cuts of beef. When the cosmetic or wedding planning crowd was in house we had lighter, fresh, less masculine things on offer. All met with great success and satisfaction, usually this meant a return trip the following year during their pilgrimage to the trade show.
Bottom line; Anticipating the cravings, delivering the “next” craze, being one step ahead of the competition because you are in tune with your clientele is infinitely useful. Happy guests feed a successful restaurant in the same way that the restaurant feeds its guests.
Finding a restaurant consultant, chef, or any operator that has the broad vision required to fully understand your guests is key in creating a successful business. C. Y. Hospitality can help identify, target, attract, and retain your customer, call us today.

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