Q&A: This Chef Explains the Smartest Way to Add This Major Trend to Menus

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How restaurants can strategically introduce clean eating to their brands.

For many restaurants, LTOs present opportunities to try bold new dishes, but they can also be used as a way to test the waters when a brand wants to bring hot industry trends to its diners. Even for ubiquitous trends, such as clean eating, it’s important for brands to try out dishes and ingredients and educate consumers before making the plunge into full-time offerings.

Here, Eddie Moya, corporate chef for Litehouse, explains why it’s important to test clean eating menu changes with LTOs before making a permanent switch.

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1. If a brand wants to start serving more clean label products, how can LTOs help?
If an LTO is executed properly, which includes taking the opportunity to deliver on the message clean label, then it will bring consumer awareness to the path you are working towards, and that’s important. Consumers want to engage with brands that are aligned with clean messaging and products.
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iStock/Vladimir Vladimirov
2. How can LTOs help add menu variety?

They can help expand your menu offering by giving you an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try things that you might not otherwise. When an LTO is successful, it’s a no brainer to add it to the menu permanently. You’ve already proven that consumers love it and your team can execute it. Generally, when a group or family goes out for a meal, they tend to choose places that have options that would please every person in the group. You can gain customers by adding successful LTO items to your menu.

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3. What are the risks of diving into regular menu offerings with clean ingredients without testing them out first?

Making a permanent change to a ‘clean’ product can often mean removing ingredients like MSG and high fructose corn syrup, both of which can have an impact on flavor. Making a change like that without testing or educating consumers could lead to push back and possible complaints. By first educating your employees and the consumer by running LTO’s, you can create an expectation of change and demonstrate that your business cares about the wellbeing of consumers.

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4. How can LTOs help brands try product with fewer risks?

LTO’s are low-risk by nature. First and foremost, they let you see if your consumers will like a new product and whether or not your team can execute on it. Not only that, but they allow you to do it without the hassle of printing new menus, changing menuboards, or making large commitments with the supplier for the product.

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5.How can clean-ingredient LTOs keep guests coming back for more?

The LTO has to be executed properly, meaning you’ve sufficiently communicated the ‘clean’ message to bring awareness to consumers. They will see that you are making changes to improve the guest experience and that you care about their wellbeing. That has tremendous value with today’s consumer.

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6. Why is it smart to focus on these cleaner items when creating seasonal or unique dishes?

Clean doesn’t necessarily mean less indulgent, there are plenty of indulgent items that can qualify as clean. It all comes down to the quality of ingredients that you use to prepare the dish. Typically, clean just refers to any dish that is free of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, whether it’s a salad or a decadent dessert. And that message is important to consumers today, which is why it’s key to focus efforts there. Many restaurateurs get stuck on the idea that clean means higher costs, but that’s not necessarily true with every item. The investment per portion is low in comparison to the opportunity to communicate the clean message.