Sourcing For a Successful LTO

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It’s common knowledge that limited-time offers are excellent devices for driving purchases and bringing new customers through the door with the promise of novelty and rarity.

But at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, the seasonal Alaskan king crab LTO is pushing the limits of “limited-time.” Even managing partner Dave Quillen doesn’t know when the crab will run out. Whenever the fisherman meet their quota for the year, the harvest is up, and the dish will disappear from the menu without warning.

“I think that’s what gives it its appeal and it’s a little more attractive in the sense that it’s so rare,” he says. “We’ll have people come in for dinner and take some home because they don’t know if they come back tomorrow if we’ll have any in.”

This specter of limited supply brings Joe’s a consistently high demand year-after-year, and the list of regular customers on a list to call once the king crab arrives keeps growing.

While the rarity of the item certainly makes this LTO something of a unicorn on the menu, Quillen says it’s Joe’s choice in sourcing partners that truly delivers the quality guests come looking for.

For the 11 years that Joe’s in Las Vegas has been running this promotion (which happens to be as long as the restaurant’s been open in this location), it has partnered with The Crab Broker to ship fresh Alaskan king crab overnight direct from Dutch Harbor in Alaska.

“What we look for in sourcing is first and foremost integrity,” Quillen says. “It’s about that trust and finding someone likeminded who wants to find the best-in-class product, and can do that consistently.”

Over the years, the team at Joe’s has become friends with the team at The Crab Broker, a relationship which Quillen says is important for building and maintaining trust so that the end-user gets the best quality possible.

This quality shows through in the menu items spotlighting the Alaskan king crab, from a pound and a half shelled tableside for $84.95 to a 6-ounce appetizer for $21.95.

While these prices are above the average for the menu, which ranges from $10-$19 for appetizers and $21-$58 for entrees, customers are willing to pay a little extra for the specialty item before it goes out of stock.

Alaskan king crab also delivers a different flavor and texture than Joe’s signature stone crab from the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Stone crab is a more delicate, succulent, and sweet flavor, while Alaskan king crab is firmer and richer. The fresh Alaskan crab is also less salty, since it’s not suspended in a brine solution when it’s fresh frozen.

This isn’t the only LTO Joe’s runs throughout the year—in fact, keeping the menu imbued with limited, seasonal offerings is part of what communicates the restaurant’s quality and commitment to freshness to its guests.

The brand even has people within each of its three restaurants—in Las Vegas, Chicago, and D.C.—solely dedicated to finding and purchasing the best products from the most reliable sources.

While seasonality creates a quality and freshness halo in and of itself, when a restaurant can trust its sourcing partner, consumers are more likely to trust the restaurant and shell out more for specialty items.

“What we serve is the absolute best we can find,” he says. “And customers know that, so it has a lasting impact beyond the LTO, and it helps from a quality standpoint yearlong.”

By Emily Byrd

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