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Squeeze profits from juice

Fresh ideas for adding juice without in-house pressing.
sliced citrus fruit

A growing slice of diners is seeking out fresh juice. One driver behind the popularity of fresh-pressed juice: 19% of consumers think beyond the drink, viewing healthy beverages as a snack, according to Technomic’s 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report. The report also noted that 21% of 18- to 34-year olds and 10% of those 35 or older say they visit juice bars more often than a year ago. With that kind of traffic, and the increasing dollars in snacking, operators from across the restaurant landscape are eager to cash in.

But bringing fresh-pressed juice in-house is no easy feat for concepts that don’t trade on it exclusively. Operators have to contend with short shelf life, excessive waste and, most restricting, high costs. For example, when Jeff Basalik, corporate chef of Chicago-based Protein Bar and Thrive360 Eatery, looked into a cold-pressed juice program, he discovered that the high-pressure processing equipment would cost about $1 million per store. So operators are coming up with workarounds to capitalize on the trend without the spend.

Outsourcing for cost control

Not wanting to absorb the cost of in-house production, Basalik opted for a third-party juice program. Both concepts now sell five bottled cold-pressed juices ($7.99 each) that are processed and packaged by a local supplier using Protein Bar’s recipes.

While it’s too early to say how the juices are faring at three-month-old Thrive360, Marketing Director Julie Saliba says cold-pressed juice sales are a strong part of the beverage program at Protein Bar. Its customers aren’t dissuaded by the $8 price tag, she says. “Cold-pressed juice drinkers understand what goes into that price, so we saw high adoption rates.” 

Limited service, limited choice

Nicole Marquis, founder of Philadelphia-based HipCityVeg, didn’t think customers of her veggie-focused fast casual would buy into the price tag she’d have to place on house-pressed juice for it to be financially viable. “I couldn’t see selling [organic] cold-pressed juice for less than $12, and that just wouldn’t work with my business model,” she says.

Plus, she feels, running a juice program “is a whole different business with a whole other set of logistics, business structure and profit and loss from a restaurant,” she says.

HipCityVeg instead offers two organic fresh lemonades, each infused with two ounces of fresh-pressed kale or carrot and ginger juice. The veggie juice is pressed twice a day in small in-house juicers. Each of the fast casual’s three locations sells about 100 lemonades a day at $3.25 apiece. “They’re expensive to make, and don’t have a great margin, but they’re a nice addition to enhance our brand,” Marquis says. 

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