As the economy stabilizes from the recession, and consumer confidence picks up, foodservice operators should be looking for ways to capitalize on better days. One proven way to improve overall check profitability is by selling more beverages.
Judging from recent Technomic data, the tide is already turning. More consumers are purchasing beverages away from home at least twice a week—71 percent today versus 66 percent in 2010.
Three growth categories are specialty coffees, specialty teas and smoothies. Specialty coffee increased by 10 percent on top 500 limited-service menus over the past two years, emerging as one of the segment’s leaders. With the rise of sweet tea, specialty tea listings nearly doubled on menus. Smoothies, including fruit smoothies, grew by 8.5 percent, while the protein-enhanced varieties jumped by a whopping 123 percent, proving that smoothies have become a menu mainstay.
The Technomic study suggests two additional categories that represent growth potential:
• It’s no surprise that 49 percent of women aged 18–24 and 41 percent of all consumers mention different beverage preferences depending on the season/time of the year. Restaurants that menu refreshing specialty lemonade and ice teas in the warmer months and comforting hot coffee, tea and cocoa when the temperatures dip are aligned with those preferences.
• Young customers crave novelty. Some 47 percent of consumers aged 18-24, compared to 29 percent of consumers overall, say they like to try new and unique beverages offered at restaurants. Operators can build their credibility and bottom line by leveraging trending flavors with more creative beverage offerings.
The Drink Up! Beverages Away from Home infographic summarizes additional Technomic findings.
Regardless of consumer confidence levels, value remains an important constant, even when it comes to high-margin beverages.
“Today’s foodservice consumers continue to base dining decisions on their perception of value,” says Technomic executive v.p. Darren Tristano. “Innovative operators are creating value by crafting new and unique beverages including specialty lemonades, handmade sodas and ‘mocktails’ that are uniquely flavorful, fresh and a better-for-you option.”
Technomic’s Beverage Consumer Trend Report examines beverage purchasing decisions, attitudes and preferences based on survey results from 1,500 consumers.