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Restaurants kick off holiday season with LTOs

Seasonal offers showcase cupcakes, peppermint and gingerbread

With retailers optimistic that consumers will be in the mood to spend this holiday season, restaurant chains are launching annual limited-time menu offers aimed at capturing seasonal appetites.

Starbucks Corp. said Tuesday it will be promoting new holiday beverages with a buy-one, get-one offer available Nov. 18 through Nov. 21 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day at participating locations. Guests can receive a free beverage when buying a holiday drink of equal or lesser value.

The holiday lineup at Starbucks this year includes a Caramel Brûlée Latte, Peppermint Mocha, Gingerbread Latte, Eggnog Latte, Peppermint White Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Hot Chocolate.

In addition, the Seattle-based chain’s new VIA instant coffee will be available in a Christmas Blend, and the holiday ground or whole bean coffees will include a Christmas Blend Espresso Roast.

Now that McDonald’s is offering specialty coffee drinks, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based quick-service chain is launching its first seasonal beverage: the McCafe Caramel Mocha, featuring a blend of caramel, mocha and espresso, topped with whipped cream and caramel drizzle. The drink is available hot or cold for prices ranging from $2.29 for a small to $3.49 for a large.

McDonald’s restaurants in nine cities are promoting the drink with a McCafe Caramel Mocha Scavenger Hunt for three giant McCafe cups hidden in their cities, with the chance to win a year of free McCafe beverages. Participating markets include Atlanta; Chicago; Cincinnati; Dallas; Los Angeles; New Haven, Conn.; Salt Lake City; Tampa Bay, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.

Greenwood, Colo.-based Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. is offering holiday cupcakes in So Very Vanilla, ChocoLOT and Freckled Lemonade flavors, priced at $1.99 individually or three for $5.29.

Also for the holidays, Red Robin is featuring a Gingerbread Shake, which is blended with graham cracker crumbs and topped with a ginger snap cookie, for a recommended $2.99 for the “classic” size.

Red Robin also is offering $5 Bonus Bucks with the purchase of every $25 in gift cards through Dec. 26. The Bonus Bucks are for use after the holidays, between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 at the chain’s more than 440 locations.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, based in Los Angeles, also is thinking cupcakes with limited-time Red Velvet-flavored beverages, available as an Ice Blended or Hot Cocoa at prices starting at $4.25 and $2.90 respectively.

In addition, the coffeehouse chain is offering Winter Dream or Candy Cane Tea Lattes, starting at $3.50; a Peppermint Latte, $3.60-$4.45; or Peppermint Ice Blended, $4.05-$5.05; and a Gingerbread-cookie flavored Ice Blended, $4.25-$5.25; or latte, starting at $3.60.

Johnny Rockets is pitching new premium shakes as an “affordable indulgence” for holiday shoppers, and the items also mark the chain’s 25th anniversary.

The Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Shake, for example, is hand spun with Ghiradelli dark chocolate sauce and garnished with a square of Ghiradelli chocolate tucked into the whipped cream for a recommended $4.99.

At the 424-unit quick-service Culver’s chain, which is based in Prairie du Sac, Wis., seasonal items include three pumpkin-flavored sweet offerings through the day after Thanksgiving: the Pumpkin Spice Shake, a Pumpkin Cheesecake Concrete Mixer, and the Pumpkin Pecan Concrete Mixer.

Beginning Nov. 26 and available through Jan. 2, Culver’s seasonal menu items will include an Egg Nog Shake priced at $3.19 for a medium; and an Oreo Candy Cane Concrete Mixer, $4.19, as well as a Brownie Overload Concrete Cake, priced at $18.99 for a large size.

Savory dishes also are available as holiday LTOs.

The 40-unit Vancouver, Wash.-based Burgerville chain, for example, is featuring a Spiced Cranberry Chicken Sandwich made with antibiotic-free chicken breast — either grilled or fried — with lettuce, tomato, red onion and a tangy, spiced cranberry sauce on a toasted three-seed bun, priced at $4.79 individually or $7.99 for a basket with a side.

Other seasonal items include sweet potato fries and pumpkin milkshakes and smoothies.

The 143-unit Cosi chain, based in Deerfield, Ill., is offering a lineup of holiday-themed sandwiches. Among them are the Turkey and Stuffing sandwich, featuring roast turkey, stuffing and cranberries; the Ham and Yam Melt, which includes thinly sliced ham, caramelized sweet potatoes and a tamarind-balsamic glaze; and the Four Cheese and Fig Melt combining fig marsala preserves, with a blend of brie, cheddar, Swiss and provolone.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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