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From Dunkin’s Cosmic Coolatta slushies to P.F. Chang’s Peach Boba Breeze, diners love summertime LTOs! And no wonder, we previously documented the benefits of LTOs in this post. These promotions are perfect for driving diners to your restaurant and staying competitive in the summer restaurant scene. That said, nothing screams summertime quite like seafood. Relaxing day-time lake outings and night-time pool parties beg for grilled shrimp, fish, and lobster to feature on dinner menus. Combine the power of LTOs with summer seafood fever, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Below, we discuss how you can use seafood LTOs to win more diners this summer.

Understanding Summertime LTOs

Let’s revisit our previous discussion about the power of limited-time offers. Some statistics worth remembering:

  • 39% of consumer food preferences change with the season.
  • Limited-time offers leverage the power of FOMO — “fear of missing out.”
  • 62% of customers worry that they won’t be able to enjoy your LTO offer the next time they come in, leading to impulse purchases.
  • The 2018 Restaurant Leadership Conference listed LTOs as one of the key growth strategies for struggling restaurants.

In short, limited-time offers are a great way to differentiate from your restaurant peers during the hyper-competitive summer months. That said, seafood may be the one menu item that propels your summer LTO campaign to great heights.

The Seafood Revolution

America loves seafood. By 2023, the US seafood market will reach a staggering $155.3 billion in value. A large chunk of that increase will be driven by restaurants.

As US consumers strive to find healthier options (95% say purchasing healthy food is their top shopping priority) and the diet market explodes (45 million Americans go on a diet each year,) there’s one food that almost always makes the list — seafood.

Whether consumers follow the pescatarian, keto, Paleo, flexitarian, or Whole 30 diet, seafood is a staple in almost all of the year’s diet trends. In fact, around 20% of Americans are actively looking to add seafood to their everyday meals. Plus, 58% of consumers believe that seafood is healthier than beef or pork.

All things considered, there’s no better time for restaurants to offer seafood LTOs than during the summer months. Not only is seafood delicious and satisfying, it’s also become synonymous with sunshine, outdoor feasts, and healthy diets.

But, the question remains: How do you stay competitive with so many restaurants offering seafood LTOs?

Emerging Seafood Trends

Seafood LTOs in New York City.

Winning with seafood in a crowded market requires smart menu planning. It also requires scrupulous attention to retrieving insights from consumer trends. Here are the top 4 trends in the restaurant seafood scene this summer.

  • Crab cakes are a winning choice this summer. 59% of customers indicate a preference for crab cakes when the dog days of summer hit. Consider pairing this popular staple with a cool Remoulade sauce or try featuring a unique take on the typical burger meal: crab cake burgers with fish fries.
  • Japanese dipping sauces are in. Ponzu — a Japanese sauce made with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and lemon juice — is on over 19% more menus this year. That’s not surprising. 41% of customers indicate that they overwhelmingly prize Asian flavors in seafood dishes.
  • Citrus and chili make great pairings. Over 25% of ALL seafood dishes at restaurants mention chili or lime in the menu description. It’s certainly a natural pairing. Also, falling back on the basics often wins with diners. The familiarity of dishes is more important to consumers than eating healthy.
  • Seafood boils are all the rage. Seafood boils are commonplace at trendy on-the-lake joints across the country. This shellfish dominant plate has been winning customers for years. But it’s just getting started. In fact, seafood boils have month-over-month growth rates of over 100%!

Psst! 5 More Trends You’ll Want to Pay Attention to

  • Bring on the greens. Believe it or not, the favorite seafood side dish is a bed of greens. Almost 50% of consumers insist that salads are their preferred seafood pairing.
  • Use the right buzzwords. 58% of customers will pay more for seafood selections paired with the word “fresh,” while 39% prefer the word “natural.” Finding the right descriptors goes a long way towards convincing customers to take that first bite.
  • Seafood for breakfast? You heard us, right! 17% of restaurants are now serving seafood in the morning. Fueled by ethnic influences and southern cultural constructs, shrimp, grits, and fish-and-rice combos are definitely on-trend. In fact, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate Report, rice and seafood dishes constitute one of the fastest-growing seafood trends — especially when it’s drenched in Asian or Spanish flavors.
  • Bring on the tentacles. Want to know what the fastest-growing shellfish is for restaurants? It’s octopus! Dishes like Diplomat Prime’s octopus atop edamame hummus are making splashes in the upscale scene, while chain restaurants like Olive Garden are adding calamari to menus.
  • Don’t forget traditional seafood favorites: Sushi burritos, fish jerky, and fish tacos are all great ways to put “comfort” back into the seafood summer offerings.

Leveraging Seafood LTOs to Increase Revenues

You get it! Seafood LTOs are hot commodities. But, how do you actually use them to get diners in the door? We’ve already talked about the anatomy of a successful LTO. If you haven’t read the post, we strongly recommend reading it NOW. Trust us: it’ll help with your summer LTO development process.

That said, let’s go over some simple seafood LTO tips that will have you reeling in diners.

1. Utilize Social Media to Get People Interested.

Social media should be your go-to restaurant marketing tool. 80% of users follow businesses on the most popular social media platforms. Also, food is the single most mentioned business category on BOTH Instagram and Twitter. The digital age was certainly tailor-made for restaurants. In fact, the hashtag #foodporn has injected pure social media power into the veins of the food industry.

The online marketing landscape has changed forever because of it.

By advertising your LTO on social media, you can inspire more interest in your brand and LTO promotion. Make sure you take great photos and really tap into the aesthetics of food photography. Here’s the bonus tip: If you pull in customers from Facebook, they’re more likely to give you a good review than non-Facebook customers. Now, that’s what we call a win-win scenario!

2. Pick a Unique Seafood Combo If You’re in a Competitive Market.

The above trends should help you understand the bent of the current market. However, if you do business in New York City, with its vast network of 26,000 restaurants (that’s over 80 restaurants per square mile), keeping up with a few trends isn’t going to cut it. If you want to win, you’ll need to stand out. A lot.

Take a page from one of these NYC restaurants. They are leveraging imaginative, super-unique seafood dishes to tempt summer palates. Pam Real Thai on West 49th Street serves up the ever-popular Gang Tai Pla — a spicey dish of fermented fish kidneys. And ZAUO NY offers customers the experience of catching their own dinner (right in the restaurant, of course). There are 3 fishing tanks on-site, where customers can catch everything from lobster to rockfish! Once they have their catch in hand, customers can choose how the chefs will prepare their particular seafood dish.

Seafood can be braised, fried tempura style, salt-grilled, steamed, or simmered in soy sauce.

3. Highlight the L.T. Portion of the LTO

Remember the “limited-time” part of LTO. The shorter the window, the more curiosity you engender. Customers will be clamoring to grab a bite of your new seafood LTO. Fast food restaurants like Sonic and Taco Bell have been using one-night-only LTO deals for years. It’s a foolproof LTO campaign strategy. Customers line up for a bite. Every. Single. Time.

The lure of LTOs centers in the psychology of “missing out on the deal.” Don’t bury your LTO before it takes off. Make sure you highlight the time factor to your customers.

4. Keep Your Advertising Summer-Oriented.

Remember, 39% of consumers tastes change with the season. They want to see summer beaches, clear skies, and sunny weather in your ads. Don’t just highlight the seafood. Add some summer decor to the backdrop.

5. Make it “Delivery Only.”

If you’re trying to integrate a new online ordering system (do you really want to hand much of your profits to 3rd party apps?), think about making your LTO offering “delivery only.” It’s a great way to increase digital traffic to your new ordering system. Plus, you can establish specific workflows to support your LTO offer. That’ll aid in streamlining kitchen operations for your chefs, and almost certainly help establish your delivery portal.

Using Your Online Ordering System to Win With Seafood LTOs

Remember to think about your online ordering system in relation to your LTO. Social mentions of seafood dishes are up 41% this year from 25 – 35 year-olds in New York City. Millennials are crazy about seafood. However, they’re also crazy about ordering food online. In fact, 59% of ALL Millennial restaurant orders are for delivery, and these diners are using online portals to make those orders.

Leveraging an image-centric, fluid online ordering system is the key to unlocking the power of your LTO. You have the chance to prominently display your offer, showcase your dishes, and deliver curated deals directly to your diners.

That said, don’t expect to get any value from 3rd party apps. GrubHub and UberEats control the marketing sphere in any business partnership — leaving you with no room to display your exciting new LTOs. By developing your own online ordering system, you can secure the real value trapped in that delicious shrimp-and-grits summer deal.

Online ordering has grown 300% faster than dine-in business in the last 5 years. And that trend isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. Make sure that your online ordering system is up-to-the-task of promoting your incredible summer menu additions!

How 9Fold Can Help You Take Your Seafood LTOs to the Next Level

Are you ready to hook some customers and reel in the dough with summertime seafood LTOs? If so, you’re on the right track! However, can your current online ordering system help you achieve your seasonal objectives? If not, we can help. With 9Fold, you get a hyper-branded online ordering system with all of the features you need to create and display your LTO offers.

Additionally, our ordering system is fast, customer-centric, and come with unique analytic and conversion tools to help you win in the digital age.

Want to learn more? Contact us for more information or to schedule a free demo of our revolutionary online ordering platform!