As the weather gets warmer, consumers thirst for excitement on restaurant beverage menus. Fortunately, operators have been responding—beverage menus have evolved from a list of simple soft drinks to include new staples such as signature lemonades as well as innovative twists on classic iced teas and craft sodas.
These types of items aren’t just a win for customers; they also spell opportunity for operators, since consumers are willing to pay a little more for signature beverages with a premium feel.
Here are three ideas for on-trend beverages to add to your summer drink menu.
With consumers’ continued desire for artisan and premium options, handcrafted sodas are poised for growth. The mention of “craft” in foodservice soda description is up 83 percent from Q4 2014 to Q4 2015, according to MenuMonitor data from Technomic.
Earls Kitchen and Bar, an upscale-casual concept with locations in Canada and the United States, uses filtered water that’s carbonated on-demand to create its craft sodas. A one-ounce shot of flavored cordial (simple syrup and fruit puree) is poured in a 12-ounce glass filled with ice and topped with carbonated water.
The sodas are not only an easy signature beverage idea, but they also appeal to the wellness trend: they contain half the sugar and calories compared to a regular soft drink. Craft sodas are also an easy way to play with seasonal flavors and ingredients; Earls recently menued flavors such as elderflower, ginger beer, lemongrass orange blossom, passion fruit and raspberry lime.
Olive Garden also offers several handcrafted sodas; one with a refreshing mix of lemonade, strawberries, passion fruit and sparkling water, and one with a delicious mix of kiwi-melon, lemonade and sparkling water.
Not your dad’s cup of coffee
For younger consumers, coffee is still the caffeine king: Thirty five percent of 18-to-24 year olds say they drink specialty coffee daily, which has remained steady since 2014 and is up from 28 percent in 2013, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
Two recent coffee trends making waves on menus are cold brew coffee and espresso tonics. In the latter, the bubbly, lightly sweet and tangy flavors of quinine provide the perfect complement to and mellow the bitter, acidic bite of the coffee.
Some operators are even combining the two trends and creating cold-brew tonics, composed of espresso or cold-brew coffee, tonic water and ice. The drink is often garnished with darker fruit flavors, herbs or citrus. Stumptown Café, for example, recently menued a blend with tonic water, cold-brew concentrate, maraschino cherries and cherry syrup over ice.
Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, next to water, according to the Tea Association of the USA. At Roti Mediterranean Grill, a fast-casual Mediterranean concept with 21 locations, flavored teas are made from a combination of tea brewed daily in-house and fruit puree. The teas are offered as a self-serve item from a mini-quadruple 2.4 gallon bowl stainless steel cold beverage dispenser, with flavors that rotate throughout the seasons.
Similarly, LongHorn Steakhouse menus “Bottomless Beverages” that include blackberry, raspberry, white peach, strawberry-lemonade and raspberry-lemonade iced teas.
Tea is also gaining steam as an ingredient on cocktail menus. Imperial Lamian in Chicago menus the Yue Lao, which includes bourbon and scotch whiskeys, Emperor’s Chamomile tea and honey. The bourbon and scotch fight together in the glass, but the tea pulls them together and adds harmony and cohesion to the cocktail, which is sweetened with honey.
This post is sponsored by S&D Coffee & Tea