One can argue that most food and drink trends get their start at the top of the food chain and trickle down from there. Maybe Iron Chefs Michael Symon and Bobby Flay didn’t originate the idea of adding booze to milkshakes at their better burger joints (B Spot and Bobby’s Burger Palace), but their overall influence is undeniable. A growing number of casual restaurants are following their lead, and the reasons are quite simple—an alcoholic version of a classic milkshake can dramatically increase check averages.
Consider this, at Symon’s B Spot a $5 vanilla bean shake becomes an $8 profit center with the addition of Kahlua. A $6 chocolate espresso shake commands another $3 with the addition of Frangelico. A pineapple coconut rum milkshake at Bobby’s Burger Palace takes the cost of a regular $5 milkshake to $7.50. At their celebrity driven burger joints check averages hover around $20. Spiking milkshakes is a smart way there and elsewhere to build incremental sales.
The casual restaurant sector clearly understands this point and has jumped on board. T.G.I. Friday’s now adds a little kick to its shakes, and has added a twist of its own. Not only does it add booze to its shakes (its Mandarin Dream Shake comes with Cointreau), it also adds beer. The Guinness Stout Shake features Guinness beer, chocolate syrup, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. The addition of booze or beer to a regular $3 shake at Fridays elevates the price to $6.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, like Friday’s, also offers shakes with booze and/or beer. A traditional milkshake there costs about $3, but a Kahlua Jamaican Shake commands a price of $6.49. For the price of $5, one can order an Irish Shake featuring Guinness beer and Jameson.
The Counter, a 37-unit full-service burger chain based in Culver City, CA, has added another twist to the milkshake-with-alcohol trend. It blends wine into some of its milkshakes at select locations. One version—which resembles a peach bellini, combines sweet white wine, peach nectar and vanilla ice cream. Another, a twist on a mimosa, features white sparkling wine, orange juice and vanilla ice cream. Its most popular wine shake includes pinot noir, cherries, chocolate and vanilla ice cream. As crazy (disgusting?) as it may sound, blending wine, even red wine, into a shake works. Don’t forget that wine and cheese (another dairy product) work beautifully together. Most importantly, The Counter is getting $9 a pop for its wine shakes. There’s nothing disgusting about that.