Curt Small of Foodbuy Foodservice Tells Us the Ins and Outs


Limited time offers (LTOs) can allow you to test new products, attract new customers, and gain buzz around your menu. However, these promotions assume some risks and financial liabilities. You don’t need to know how to manage LTO inventory in a restaurant to succeed – you need to manage the whole supply chain. Foodbuy Foodservice can help.


Curt Small has worked in the foodservice industry for over 41 years and supply chain management for more than 19 years. In his current role as a Senior Distribution Manager at Foodbuy Foodservice, Small assists member clients with LTO management.


Get to Know the Basics


“When you start marketing your promotions, you want to make sure that the products are at the locations in sufficient quantities to meet the demand.”


It’s no secret that limited time offers are a great way to gain attention in the foodservice industry. Whether you’re looking to test reactions to plant-based proteins or just revitalize your menu, this strategy can help you explore new offerings.


When determining how to manage LTO inventory for your restaurant, Small notes that the type of LTO – hard versus soft – will determine how high the risk is. Soft-LTOs are primarily marketed in stores but nowhere else. Hard-LTOs, on the other hand, are promoted through more in-depth marketing campaigns. This creates more pressure to meet the likely increased demand for inventory.


The key element is to meet demand, whether the promotion is wildly successful or disappointing. Procuring too little could damage your business reputation and guest relationships, while over forecasting may require and end-of-life disposal plan.


Choose Your Products Carefully

How to manage LTO inventory in restaurant

Small recommends choosing a product that’s easily accessible to stay on top of demand.

“That’s why sourcing through Foodbuy Foodservice is one of the first steps we suggest.”


Account managers can help you identify opportunities to use existing stock or work through redistribution platforms. Furthermore, Foodbuy Foodservice can utilize our strong supplier and distributor relationships to better manage your campaign. Working with a current supplier is ideal, as it helps you leverage your spend through that supplier and strengthen your overall relationship.


Most importantly, Small notes, simplicity is key. Creating a promotion with numerous new ingredients increases risk of failure by creating a logistical minefield. An LTO involving a few easily sourced items or promoting current inventory in new ways is more likely to succeed.


Prepare as Much as Possible


You want to put yourself in the best possible position when executing a limited time offer requires strategic planning. Small recommends at least 8 to 10 weeks of lead time with your distributor. Ideally, setting up a marketing plan for each calendar year to determine when LTOs will launch. He also recommends taking care when forecasting usage.


“You don’t want to do a test for a week – you want to do a test for a month. That allows the honeymoon period to come and go, then settle into normalcy. You need both to forecast in your load in inventory and phasing out of LTO inventories.”


Operators should also consider:


Tests should be run in high-volume and low-volume locations.

Forecasts should consider supporting items eg. hamburger buns for a new burger special.

How this special will affect the demand for competing offerings.


Once all of this is put together, you’ll have a cohesive idea of an LTOs potential effects on your menu. Finally, you’re ready to get started.


 Connecting Every Component

“Communication is key with the supplier, the distributor, the member, and the locations in particular.”


Once your LTO launches, you’ll need to keep your distributor, supplier, and locations on the same page. That means tracking sales extensively to forecast demand. Foodbuy Foodservice can manage this element with you, making sure that you have the amount of product you need, as well as an end-of-life plan for excesses.


Successfully launching LTOs can allow you to grow and evolve your menus and customer bases. All it takes is effective planning, communication, and execution. Speak with a Foodbuy Foodservice representative today about how we can support you in managing LTO inventories for your restaurants.

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