Creativity isn’t only alive and well in the kitchen. What guests drink is just as, and sometimes more, interesting and unique than what they eat. Drinks are taking center stage on some menus, whether it’s at a national chain or local brewpub. Drink selections are finding ways to stand out in the crowd.
According to the NPD Group/CREST, “about 56% of fast-food purchases involved a beverage last year” with technological innovations ensuring that continues and even grows. The Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, which can mix and match up to 127 different flavors, allows guests to mix and match flavors at QSRs. The machine allows guests to customize their drinks without adding more work and responsibility to the staff. Restaurants like Firehouse Subs have embraced it.
There are other restaurants using the introduction of new drinks to attract customers. Taco Bell announced in January the addition of “six new drinks rolling out at once, including three carbonated and three new non-carbonated beverages” per USA Today. With beverages accounting for 30% – 40% of sales, according to Christopher Mullen of Boston University, new items increase profits while enticing guests to return with greater frequency.
In Chicago, Spritz Burger is one of the latest burger bars to open its doors. Part of their service will include “creating syrups that will be combined with a seltzer spritz tableside to make craft sodas.” Allowing guests to watch how their custom concoctions are made adds to the excitement and experience of this new eatery.
Some establishments are making craft sodas their primary focus, like Rambling House Soda Pop in Columbus. Owner John Lynch sees craft sodas as following the path similar to craft beers, which inspires drinkers to seek out a homemade, small-batch feel for their drinks. Custom sodas give Lynch and his business the benefit of straight distribution, while giving guests new and unique mixes for bartenders to experiment with in cocktails.
Adding custom drinks to a menu can be a daunting task, but doing something as simple as preparing beforehand can provide a memorable experience for restaurant goers. Some establishments are bottling mixed drinks to manage quality control in the hopes they can surprise their guests with “well-made versions of familiar classics”.
Technological innovation to customize small-batch drink options allow foodservice professionals to deliver guests beverages in more ways than ever, always leaving them thirsty for more.