Elevate the non-alcohol beverage program and boost hospitality with premium offerings

Photograph: JFOODO - The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center

As consumers increasingly show interest in non-alcohol beverage offerings—as evidenced by the proliferation of “Dry January”, a boost in those participating in sober-curious lifestyles and mocktails appearing on beverage programs in all segments—operators are wise to step their game up when it comes to offering choices for diners who don’t want to imbibe alcohol.

At a recent seminar presented by JFOODO and hosted by Zach Mangan—the founder of Kettl, a New York City- and Fukuoka, Japan-based tea and teaware company—the benefits of offering specialty Japanese teas were the star of the show. Mangan took attendees through a comprehensive tour of several Japanese green teas, including a tasting of several options. The seminar provided guests and operators alike a broad overview of the benefits of offering specialty green teas on the menu, and examples of pairings were provided to give operators a starting point for how to add them to their own restaurant menus—and why they should.

LA Seminar


Overall, 30% of consumers say they like to try new and unique beverages offered at restaurants, and 41% of consumers ages 18-34 say that full-service restaurants should offer greater beverage variety, according to Technomic's 2022 Beverage Consumer Trend Report. Additionally, 26% of consumers ordered hot tea in the last month, and 41% ordered hot or cold specialty tea.

While mocktails and non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits have made waves in the restaurant and retail industries, some consumers may be interested in beverages that are less alcohol-adjacent, such as premium teas.

Premium green teas from Japan give customers the opportunity to try something they may have never tasted before, and curated pairings

Real world applications

Some restaurants, such as Salt + Charcoal in Brooklyn, New York, have added premium Japanese green teas to their menus to appeal to diners who want a premium beverage experience without any alcohol. Offering a premium tea option allows operators to elevate the dining experience, pairing specialty teas with specific dishes not unlike a wine- or beer-pairing option. Additionally, adding a premium tea pairing option is a big opportunity for profit from non-alcohol beverage drinkers, as specialty teas can be priced similarly to cocktails, wine and beer.

Boosting hospitality and value

By offering this level of hospitality to diners who are looking for an elevated experience, operators can feel confident that their service is upscale and offers added value over competitors.

During the pandemic, consumers were more sensitive to menu prices, but according to Technomic’s recent Value and Pricing Consumer Trend Report, data suggests diners have increased what they are willing to pay across most restaurant categories and dayparts. By offering options that cater to these behaviors, operators can help boost their bottom lines while offering a premium experience to diners. About a third of consumers say their definition of value at a restaurant has changed over the past two years, with flavor and quality being the top two attributes for food and beverage that create value. In essence, serving beverages made with high quality ingredients helps boost a restaurant’s value equation. For operators, the value comes not only from customer satisfaction, but also from a boost in check averages—according to Ignite menu data, some restaurants offer specialty green tea from Japan for an average cost of $9 per beverage. By promoting specialty beverage pairings, diners who would have perhaps otherwise stuck to water or soft drinks may choose to upgrade their experience to add Japanese green tea, thus boosting the profitability of the overall beverage program.

Green Tea


Why Japanese green tea?

Specialty green teas are grown in many regions across Japan, and offer a sustainable beverage option for eco-conscious operators—according to JFOODO, for instance, it takes 37 gallons of water to make an 8-ounce cup of coffee, but just 8 gallons of water to make the same amount of green tea.

Beyond sustainability, the variants of green tea offer operators the versatility they need to offer diners a unique experience, with drinks tailored to virtually any dish on the menu. Matcha, a well-known green tea, is perfect for breakfast and early-morning drinks as it is high in caffeine and provides an energy boost for the day. Gyokuro offers an umami-rich flavor with full-bodied taste, and is also great for morning drinks as it is high in caffeine. Hojicha is roasted with high heat, resulting in an earth aroma and somewhat bitter flavor—perfect for after meals, especially dinner. Sencha offers a sweeter flavor, can be served either hot or cold, and offers diners a fresh-tasting sip perfect for any time of day. With these options—plus many more—operators will have no trouble finding the perfect specialty green teas for their guests.

What’s more, Japanese green teas offer an array of possibilities for pairings—that is, it’s not just great for restaurants serving Japanese food, but all kinds of food. Check out these pairing ideas for inspiration.

Menu inspiration

Japanese green teas offer nuances similar to those in wine and beer, making them perfect for pairing with different dishes. They offer complementary flavors, create contrast and can offer flavor and temperature variety when served alongside different menu options. In addition to offering a delicious beverage, however, specialty teas also offer a unique experience and augment the overall meal, contributing to a boost in customer satisfaction and the potential for repeat business. Operators can experiment with different offerings, but here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Pair Genmaicha with broths, proteins, and rice dishes.

-The aromatics of green tea blended with roasted brown rice create a perfect counterpoint to the flavor profile of rich broths, savory proteins and the fragrance of rice dishes.

  • Pair sparkling Kamairicha “champagne” with fried foods like chicken and tempura vegetables.

-Sparkling Kamairicha adds a unique minerality to the fruity and roasty notes of Kamairicha. The bubbles are reminiscent of Champagne and balance the rich fattiness of fried foods.

  • Pair mizudashi Sencha with fresh fruits such as pineapple, mango and citrus.

-When Sencha is brewed cold, it produces a sweet round brew. The grassy aromatics blend perfectly with the acidity and aromas of fruit.

  • Pair hot Hojicha with milky desserts including dishes with chocolate, roasted nuts, or whipped cream.

-The roasted notes of Hojicha are nutty and toasty. Hojicha is a perfect companion to the rich fragrances of cacao. Hojicha's light body is also refreshing with cream and other heavy desserts.

  • Pair Gyokuro with umami rich seafood. 

-Gyokuro, known for its deep and lasting umami, may be the absolute best beverage for pairing with the briny salinity of seafood, especially sea urchin, oysters and shellfish.

Specialty teas open a world of opportunity with not only flavor and experience, but also with profit for operators. JFOODO, a Japanese government organization promoting Japanese food products to overseas markets, has all the information operators need about an array of green tea varietals thar are perfect for restaurants in all segments, from casual to fine dining. To learn more about specialty Japanese teas from JFOODO, click here.

This post is sponsored by JFOODO - The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center


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