The quantity, variety, and quality of non-alcoholic drinks available in restaurants has grown exponentially in just a few years. This trend isn’t an accident - according to a recent study by Technomic, 86% of consumers purchased a beverage somewhere in July 2010. That’s a lot of smoothies and coffees.
Big chain restaurants have been quick to take advantage of this trend, and it’s meant big successes even in a grumpy economy. McDonald’s Real Fruit Smoothies sold so fast this summer they had to shorten the promotional period for the new item. And that’s just the most obvious example – just about every major national chain is doing something with specialty drink promotions and customers are responding.
The beauty of drink promotions is their simplicity. For independents, coming up with some interesting specialty drinks can be pretty easy and cost-efficient. Add some aggressive pricing during happy hours and lunch and you’ve got a great way to generate some word-of-mouth buzz with customers.
The traditional strategy of drink promos has been to lure ‘em with great-tasting drinks and hook ‘em into staying for a meal – or at least an appetizer. But Technomic’s beverage trends study reveals that more and more consumers are going out just for non-alcoholic drinks, and restaurants that cater to this new behavior stand to lock in a solid new revenue stream.
Unfortunately, there isn’t deeper analysis into the beverage-only dining trend (at least not in the free press release), like who these premium drink consumers are or what time of day they prefer. That said, it’s probably a safe bet to promo your new premium drinks at lunch and during late afternoon/early evening.
As for the kinds of drinks to serve, two types are by far the most popular: coffee based (both hot and cold) and fruit based. A little culinary creativity can yield some pretty unique drinks in both categories, and if premium (preferably local) ingredients are used, so much the better.
Changing your restaurant’s perspective on beverages from an add-on to the entrees you’d prefer to be selling to a central money-maker in their own right will yield a productive new revenue stream. Your customers are already making that move, and it’s time for you to follow suit.