Many of the traditional fall rituals consumers enjoy, like back-to-school and football games, have been altered this year by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but there is one fall tradition they can count on this year, pumpkin spice latte limited time offers.

Coffee and donut chains began rolling out this highly anticipated fall tradition in late August and the offers will run until it’s time for the holiday limited time offers to launch. Although the pandemic didn’t hinder the return of pumpkin spice lattes, often called PSLs for short, it could impact how well the promotions do because of overall restaurant visit declines, reports The NPD Group.

Like many limited time offers, PSL offers don’t attract new customers but instead appeal to existing customers who purchase often, sometimes three times more frequently than non-buyers. This has been consistent for the past four years, according to NPD’s Checkout, which harvests restaurant and retail receipts from an omnichannel panel of more than 130,000 consumers. PSL limited time offers also help lift check size. For example, among the existing buyers of a major gourmet coffee chain, checks last September and October that included PSLs were $2.77 more than the average spend in previous months.

Who are these perennial purchasers of pumpkin spice lattes? They tend to have higher incomes, 61% have a household income of $75,000 and above. PSL fans skew slightly more female (57%) than male and 48% are 45 years and older. Sixty-five percent of pumpkin spice latte aficionados do not have children under 18 in the household, finds the Checkout analysis.

Although the COVID pandemic hasn’t altered this year’s PSL offers, it could impact sales as the U.S. restaurant industry continues to be challenged by mandated restrictions and safety protocols as well as reluctance on the part of the consumer to visit. Restaurant visits overall were down by -14% in July, and visits to quick service coffee and donut outlets, many of which offer pumpkin spice lattes, are down -23% and -13% respectively.1

“Pumpkin spice lattes are a harbinger of fall,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Consumers anticipate their availability and know the drinks are only around for a short period of time and this anticipation creates demand. With foodservice visits down overall, the success of this year’s pumpkin spice latte offers remains to be seen.”

1. Source: The NPD Group/CREST®, July 2020