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Restaurants dealing with less-thirsty guests

Restaurants dealing with less-thirsty guests

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Although consumers order a beverage 70 percent of the time when visiting restaurants and other foodservice outlets, beverage orders have declined 4 percent or 2 billion servings over a five-year period, according to market researchers at The NPD Group. Evolving tastes and cost consciousness are behind declines, the firm says.

There are more growing beverages at restaurants in the last five years than declining, but the declining beverages, like carbonated soft drinks, represent larger volumes, according to NPD’s Beverages at Foodservice: Satisfying our Thirst for Beverages report, which examines consumers’ beverage choices, what and where they order and the importance of variety in driving their decisions. Iced/frozen coffee, specialty coffee, tap water and bottled water top the list of growing beverages. Diet and regular carbonated soft drinks, milk and brewed coffee have lost the most servings of the declining beverages. 

The growing types, such as iced and specialty coffee, get a boost from the fact that consumers crave these beverages and will make a special visit to get them. These beverages are also more likely to be ordered for a snack.

Another factor driving orders of certain beverages, like tap water, is cost consciousness. The NPD report found that consumers will forego a purchased beverage and opt for tap water instead, or visit another location in order to get a lower-priced beverage. 

Declining beverages, like carbonated soft drinks and milk, which account for nearly 50 percent of all beverages ordered at foodservice, have lost 4 billion servings since 2010. Though declining beverages are down overall, they are purchased with the most frequency of all beverage categories—about two-thirds of these beverages are purchased at most or every foodservice visit. These beverages are typically ordered at dinner or lunch.

Still, there’s plenty of room for growth when it comes to beverage sales, especially in the adult category. In a recent study by beverage consultants Uncorkd, 30 percent of respondents replied “almost never” when asked how often they order alcoholic beverages when dining in restaurants that serve alcohol. Another 15 percent replied “rarely” to the same question.

“Despite recent declines in beverage servings, the fact is that beverages are still an important part of foodservice visits—whether by themselves or as part of a meal,” says Warren Solochek, president of NPD’s foodservice practice. “In order to drive beverage orders, foodservice operators will need to understand consumers’ changing tastes and offer an array of quality beverage choices, including healthy options.”

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