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Consumer Trends

Drink up

Smart operators are paying more attention to the beverage side of the menu. Today's customers crave more variety, innovation and flavor—in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. When concepts satisfy these cravings, they can build traffic, increase profits and stand out from the crowd.

  • Beverage menu innovation was named one of the top trends for 2013, and fast-casual concepts took it as a call to action. Variations on lemonade and iced tea showed up on many menus, as well as house-made and artisanal sodas
  • 33% of younger customers say that the beverage selection was "important" or "extremely important" in their decision to visit a restaurant or bar
  • In 2012 dollars spent on spirits in bars and restaurants—known in the trade as "on-premise"—rose 5.6%. Volume of spirits sold was up 2%
  • The fastest-growing spirits categories include vodka (5.8 percent), American straight whiskey (5.2 percent) and tequila (3.8 percent). Vodka increased its share to account for one-third of total spirits volume and remain the largest category, while the smallest, Irish whiskey, once again posted a double-digit gain (21.6 percent)
  • Guests are embracing different beer styles. Stouts were up 38%, wheat beers, 36% and IPAs 17%. Beer cocktails are catching on too. The Shandy, Beer Margarita and Michelada are three of the most popular, but some places are crafting their own signature beer cocktails
  • Iced tea has outpaced carbonated soft drinks in growth and has become a popular mixer for cocktails. Peach tea with bourbon, passionfruit tea with vodka and rum with raspberry green tea are a few of the combos on casual dining menus this season

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