Mattson, a leader in food and beverage innovation announced their newest service, ProtoThink LTO, during The Flavor Experience foodservice industry event in Monterey, CA on September 8.  This new platform is a revolutionary way for foodservice operators to create exciting, limited time offers in as little as two to three months and help drive users to quick-service and fast-casual brands.

Mattson’s ProtoThink LTO targets menu needs by tapping into the power of the people, capabilities, and know-how in culinary- combined with food science, category knowledge, plus emerging consumer behavior and needs. The best ideas are turned into exciting proof-of-concept products that are then evaluated across a range of marketplace success criteria and an exclusive algorithm to prioritize the opportunities.

“Mattson has worked in the restaurant industry for over 40 years. We’re the secret partner behind the scenes, helping chains amplify and accelerate the success of new menu items. Menu excitement is a key revenue-driving force for restaurant operators, and as a credible partner, we’re familiar with procuring the enabling elements, developing, and scaling proprietary ingredients for food and beverage companies of all sizes, to create unique signature Limited Time Offers and more,” says Steve Gundrum, Mattson Chairman and Chief Creative Officer.

With an audience that included more than 150 top commercial chain operators, The Mattson team hosted a panel discussion at The Flavor Experience, led by Barb Stuckey, Chief Innovation & Marketing Officer, that focused on the elements and challenges of successful LTOs for limited and full-service restaurants.

“LTOs can have a big impact on a brand’s perception. A compelling new menu item that balances taste, anticipation and accessibility can drive traffic and lead to new customer conversions, brand awareness, increased revenue, and more. “LTOs are often used as click-bait, but they should always stay true to the brand and represent the brand’s integrity, from the name of the LTO to the ingredient quality,” says Annica Conrad, Chief Marketing Officer at Fat Brands shared during the panel discussion. Fat Brands includes Round Table Pizza, Hot Dog On A Stick, Buffalo’s Cafe, Elevation Burger and more.

Based on a Mattson consumer insights study conducted with 400 quick-service consumers in August 2021, about one third (35%) said they have visited a fast-food restaurant they have never tried before specifically to try an LTO, showing how powerful a good LTO can be. However, 43% of consumers feel their favorite quick service restaurant is only “moderately creative” when it comes to LTOs, proving consumers are hungry for innovation and are open to trying new ingredient builds.

Mattson’s long history of innovating new menu items and restaurant concepts led to the inception of a strategic and highly creative way to develop LTOs; this new signature innovation service leverages their depth of experience with QSR and Fast Casual brands. The ProtoThink LTO service includes these three steps:

ProtoThink is a cloud-based platform used as a collaboration tool to create a wide and diverse range of menu ideas with foodservice chains’ innovation team—together with Mattson’s culinary, R&D, marketing, and industry insight experts. Mattson food inventors moderate online ProtoThink LTO sessions to identify disruptive yet feasible concepts that deliver on operators’ needs.  Then, they turn the output from ProtoThink into consumer compelling LTO possibilities.

The Food Studio is where the top concepts from the ProtoThink ideation are turned into real-food models that take creativity to the next level with inspiring LTO food builds that Mattson’s clients can experience beyond just a concept.

LTOiQ – a Mattson Industry Exclusive.  After Mattson brings ideas to life in the Food Studio, the LTOiQ process is used to vet and assess each idea across a range of marketplace success criteria.  An algorithm is applied and used to ensure the brands are investing their time and resources in the LTOs with the strongest potential. With this tool, ProtoThink LTO becomes more valuable and proprietary than any other service on the market.

“In the end, it’s all about selecting those LTO opportunities that will drive revenue to bring new and existing consumers to the brand.  That’s how we designed the ProtoThink LTO service and the LTOiQ algorithm – it’s the ultimate tool for helping our clients prioritize new menu opportunities,” says Steve Gundrum, Mattson Chairman and Chief Creative Officer. “Created from the assessment of hundreds of LTOs launched across categories, ProtoThink LTO is constantly updated to reflect trends in consumer wants, needs and behavior. We’re thrilled to help ignite next-level creativity combined with a disciplined process to elevate the ideas with the strongest potential to business success.”