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Housemade sodas sell health

We’ve heard time and again that health dictates a lot of what consumers order from restaurants. So it’s no far cry that, according to a recent Gallup poll report, nearly two-thirds of consumers (63 percent) say they avoid soda in their diets. The reason for the avoidance: adverse health effects.

Yet, as Restaurant Business reported in our July issue, handcrafted sodas are hot with operators. They help boost check averages and support an operator’s dedication to artisanal menu items—yet another hot topic right now. So how are they getting health-conscious diners to turn to their higher-price pops?

They’re selling health.

According to research firm Technomic, 87 percent of consumers equate “fresh” with healthier. So as operators tout their handcrafted concoctions as fresh, made with “real” ingredients, they’re really promoting what consumers perceive as better-for-you wholesomeness.

Chicago-based Mercadito Hospitality is well aware of possibility of upselling with housemade sodas … if they’re marketed right. At its namesake Mercadito restaurant, with locations in Chicago, New York City and Las Vegas, Refrescos are an off-menu favorite for regulars. This twist on traditional soda is a combination of fresh fruit juice with soda water that comes in flavors such as strawberry, blueberry, cucumber and pineapple. Despite being a secret menu item, the concept has sold almost 2,700 Refrescos this year. And at $6 a pop, that’ll definitely bring up that average lunchtime bill.

Another one of Mercadito Hospitality’s concepts, Tavernita in Chicago, has a whole section on its beverage menu devoted to housemade sodas. In addition to listing the four varieties, descriptors such as “fresh cucumber juice,” “orange juice and zest,” “cane sugar” and “orange blossom honey” accompany each beverage name to promote the use of fresh ingredients in the drinks. To further upsell these $5 sodas, the menu suggests guests “ask your server about pairing a soda with your favorite spirit” for an added cost. So far this year, Tavernita’s housemade sodas have brought in nearly $3,000 in net sales, accounting for 14 percent of the beverage sales.

So while many consumers may be avoiding traditional soda across the country, clearly fresh sells.

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