Throughout 2021, the number of diners comfortable returning to their favorite restaurants following the closures and social distancing of 2020 slowly climbed. Morning Consult, a company tracking trends in the wake of COVID-19, found that, as of early July, 71% of consumers are ready to return. That is a significant jump from the 42% that felt safe in 2020. Another positive sign: 44% of Americans are excited to go back to restaurants.
Despite these uplifting trends, it’s clear that not everyone has put on their party hat. Between news flashes about the Delta variant and oscillating fears, restaurants are vying for a piece of a somewhat reduced consumer pie. To ensure continued rising numbers, operators need to make sure that every customer who enters their establishment remembers it and shares this memory with friends and family.
The Importance of the Beverage
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And the first impression for many diners is the beverage. Before the appetizer, before the entrée, and before they’ve had time to be dazzled by the server comes the drink.
To impress your guests with that first drink, you need to stay up on the trends. No falling back on what’s worked before. Significant changes and surprising mutations find their way into every new year, demanding that managers and operators remain vigilant in their pursuit of the “new normal.” Better yet, create a drink so spectacular that it starts a social media wave and becomes a part of an exciting new craze.
We can all take a lesson from Panaderia El Solecito, a Mexican bakery in Yakima, Washington. Their multilayered bright-colored drinks became a TikTok sensation, leading to a line of cars with people driving hours to experience their Peachy Melon or Blue Raspberry Colada.
Let’s take a look at what other creations are on today’s drink menu.
Trending Beverages in the Summer of 2021
Yes, whiskey is still making its way up the ladder of spirits growing in popularity. With a blend of sugars, bitters, and whisky, the Old Fashioned is still one of the top performers in this segment. Some bartenders are mixing it up and creating a signature Old Fashioned. A few of our favorites include Bartlett pear bitters, demerara, and orange oil, or added dashes of lemons and verbena.
While summer may be subduing the hot toddy’s return to fame, many operators find these types of drinks still in demand, particularly as after-dinner digestifs. One example is Becherovka, a unique herbal liquor with gingery, cinnamon-like tastes that leave both a sweet and spicy flavor.
All-natural, non-alcoholic drinks that taste like classic cocktails still represent a growing trend. Think organic juices and today’s top-of-the-charts medicinal herbals, like turmeric and damiana.
Modern Restaurant Management reported on the current tea craze, a phenomenon that has 159 million Americans drinking the versatile beverage. Restaurants are offering artisan teas, like hand-harvested Bi Luo Chun green tea or the floral Milk Oolong. Chicago’s high-end Rare Tea Cellar sells teas like grapefruit grove elixir and sweet peach noir to the likes of the city’s popular Alinea and Goose Island Brewery.
Other restaurants are incorporating tea into their alcoholic beverage program. One option is a hot tea combined with cider and mulled wine.
A solid beverage program can create substantial profits for restaurants. In fact, 20-25% of a restaurant’s profits can come from revenue generated from alcohol sales. Modern Restaurant Management reported on Tao Las Vegas, one of the biggest moneymakers in the industry and one in which alcohol makes up 50% of their sales.
One reason for its high-profit margin is the high markup and knowledgeable staff who can easily upsell. Upselling, however, demands well-trained employees. High-end spirits remain very popular, and your team needs to suggest top-of-the-line brands that guests may not consider.
One POS-integrated software program that helps staff stay up-to-date on your beverage program is Tipzyy. First, the program helps staff learn about beverages right on their smartphone through contests, videos, and challenges. Then, it rewards top performers. All the while, operators track sales and promote high-margin products through the manager dashboard.
Implementing changes in a restaurant’s beverage program takes research and time, but the benefits can far exceed the efforts. Consider using some of the tools that make the process easier and get in the trending beverage game.