Clicking the Refresh Button on Beverages

Glass of cola on white background with splash.



QSRs Are Mixing Up New Ideas In 2016

For a long time, beverages have been considered the ‘side-kick’ of a meal. However, that all seems to be changing as more quick service restaurants are refreshing (pun intended) their beverage offerings. From industry magazines to the National Restaurant Association, the experts all agree, beverage options are the latest trend in food. Businesses are reevaluating how they look at these underutilized complements and taking a chance by doing things differently because it’s no longer about asking “And what can I get you to drink?,” it’s about asking “What would you like to drink?”

A Made-to-Order Experience

Consumers continue to look for dining solutions that t their busy lifestyles, but more and more are still looking to feel connected to their food choices. But, when it comes to screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-9-08-02-amvanillasoda_drinks_1beverages, usually the choice is limited to the options of the establishment. In 2009, consumers were astounded by the Coca-Cola® 
freesytle . Unless you count those patrons who would take it upon themselves to splash a little bit of every soft drink option in their cups, for the first time consumers were in complete control of creating their own signature drink from an expanded array of options. These options went beyond just soft drinks and included flavored waters, teas, and other types of beverages. In 2016, consumers are beginning to look for the next level of this experience with a more artisan or craft approach. In fact, the National Restaurant Association even named handcrafted artisan drinks as the number one beverage trend of 2016 in its “What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast” and the latest innovations from QSRs are proving this to be true.
One company that has been capitalizing on this trend with its handcrafted take on sodas for the last few years is Sonic Drive-In, which first introduced the concept with its Sonic Splash Hand-Crafted sodas in 2014 and has now expanded to Old-Fashioned Sweet Cream Sodas this year. With a base of sweet cream and sparkling soda, and a splash of flavoring, these customizable beverage options are allowing customers to enhance their overall experience and enjoy a meal which was truly prepared just for them. Developing a simple base for customization can go a long way when it comes to enhancing the customer’s experience and can be relatively easy to incorporate into any business model.

Premium Infusions

Another traditional beverage getting a handcrafted makeover this year is tea. However, instead of old-fashioned flavor options, these classic tastes are being infused with refreshing fresh fruit and fruit syrups. With tea also finding its way into the National Restaurant Association’s forecast, it is no wonder why food & beverage purveyors are infusing this concept into their menus.Teas and lemonades are no stranger to being offered in a variety of flavors, however, consumers are responding positively to a more “tea for one” option. Starbucks certainly did shake things up when it partnered with Teavana® and launched a Shaken Tea concept in its stores – adding flavorful and exotic fruit syrups to its premium variety of teas to craft a thirst-quenching, made-to-order experience for its guests.

Perfect Pairings

While infusing teas, lemonades, or creamy drinks with delicious flavors can create a harmonious new melody for consumers’ palates, thinking outside the glass offers its own possibilities for refreshing beverage menus. In October of 2015, Restaurant Business Magazine published the online article “How to Pro t from Pairing Alcohol-Free Drinks and Food” where author Kathleen Squires discusses the trend of recommending non-alcoholic beverage pairings that have complementary flavor profiles to the cuisine found on the menu. For businesses that offer alcoholic drinks, having a list of non-alcoholic “top shelf” beverages on the menu can help increase profits with slightly higher selling prices than standard soft drinks or water. “For operators, non-alcoholic pairings are a way to boost the check. For guests, it’s a less costly alternative to wine, beer or cocktails, and an inclusive experience for those who don’t drink,” Squires writes. Mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails) and infusions can satisfy customers’ curiosity for something new or for something a little more daring with their dinner.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-9-05-37-amDitch the Straw and Grab a Spoon

With innovation everywhere surrounding beverages, the idea of edible drinks is surprisingly not science fiction. These edible cocktails can be served in a variety of ways, both in and out of glassware, and are filled with delightful textures not found in liquid beverages. For example, a strawberry daiquiri could be served as a chic Italian ice, or perhaps offer a nighttime version of someone’s morning chai tea in the form of ice cream. The advantage of reimagining something is: the only obstacle is the imagination. Dessert flavors have even been known to influence drinks. Recently, Dunkin’ Donuts included ice cream-inspired coffee flavors such as Pistachio, Butter Pecan, and Cookie Dough to its lineup. In a press release posted to Dunkin’ Donuts’ website, Jeff Miller, Dunkin’ Brands’ Executive Chef and Vice President of Product Innovation shares, “Each spring we’ve seen tremendous enthusiasm and excitement for our coffees and lattes featuring the flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Our fans love fun flavor twists to their coffees, and ice cream is the perfect choice to put winter behind us and evoke thoughts of spring and summer ahead.”screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-9-07-50-am
The consumer market is always changing based on new demands and ideas, and it is a constant challenge for businesses to remain relevant and stand out among the crowd in an industry full of competition. Refreshing current beverage offerings can be an efficient and low-cost opportunity to present something new to a QSR’s customer base. Nevertheless, whether it is offering customers a handcrafted experience, offering the perfectly paired combination, or giving customers something entirely new to experience, it looks like the glass is half-full when it comes to these new trends for beverage offerings.