At The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro, LTOs mean BIG business.
By Jane Auster
Photography by Brandon Gray
In fact, everything at The WORKS is big, from the more than 50 different kinds of burgers stacked high with unusual topping combinations to the chain’s ambitious plans for menu innovation.
The 15-year-old operation thrives on constant change and upping the WOW factor of its outsized burger menu. Keeping new taste sensations front of mind with guests is a mandate of the chain, with 25 locations across Ontario. One of The WORKS’ main strategies to introduce innovation is the limited time offer.
“Right now we refresh our main menu at least once a year, but we run LTOs throughout the year,” says Corporate Chef Shane Kennedy. “An LTO for us usually lasts 11 to 13 weeks, depending on how popular it is. If we get great guest reviews and the LTO works well, there is potential for it to cross over to the main menu.”
The WORKS boasts a long history of creating innovative new offerings with Kraft products from the LTO stage to main menu incorporation. Kennedy and his team look for uniqueness in the ingredients to make an LTO successful.
LTOs, he adds, are the lifeblood of menu innovation at The WORKS. And they’re serious business, involving an extensive process of brainstorming, experimentation, internal testing, focus groups, guest sampling and feedback.
“We get a concept, and we build up the burgers,” he explains. “It keeps us on the edge and innovative. We rely on a little bit of everything: research, trends, what’s hot out there, brainstorming. We always want to be ahead of the trend.”
THE WORKS is now planning what could turn out to be one of its most innovative new additions. The chain is introducing another Kraft winner, Velveeta processed cheese product, to the menu and will use an LTO to test the waters. The team is already busy creating a unique dip to launch in mid-October and has other recipes involving Velveeta under consideration.
“Velveeta is a great, consistent product,” says Kennedy. “Our culinary team in the tastings likes the way it forms and works operationally. Our focus group is in the next few weeks. Then we go into a test menu and try out the menu in the restaurant over a two-week period. Our guests walk in and are surprised with a menu that is unlike any other menu. They try it, order it, and at the end we give them a survey to pick their brains before they pay their bill. Guests love this opportunity to try something totally new and unique and be part of the testing.”
If the Velveeta-based dip is a success, Kennedy’s team is sure to create even more menu items using it as a key ingredient.
The WORKS is already a power user of Kraft products on the menu, including Philly cream cheese product, Bull’s-Eye Bold Original Barbecue Sauce and even frozen Kraft Dinner Macaroni & Cheese. “Philly cream cheese is always a great one for us,” Kennedy says. “In one LTO we had a burger stuffed with hot peppers and topped with cream cheese, and it was a great combination of flavours.”
With Velveeta, the chain is hoping to add another winner to its BIG and growing menu.
“Guests really like something new,” he says, “and if we can offer them something innovative, they’ll come back time and time again.”
Chef Kennedy’s top reasons for working with Velveeta:
Versatility. “You can mix Velveeta with different ingredients,” says Kennedy. “You can use it with any kind of food and make it spicy, savoury, or mixed with herbs and flavours.”
Consistency. “Velveeta is flawless, tasty and easy to handle, so you never have to worry about it, first time, every time.”
Texture. “Velveeta will not change its form, so we are able to create unique new dishes and not have to worry that the Velveeta will alter its shape.”