This article first appeared in the 1 September 2005 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com
Responding to trends and customer tastes is as important for drink menus as it is for center-of-the-plate options.
Beer, wine and flavored liqueurs remain popular on the alcoholic-beverage side. An emphasis on creativity and upscale offerings drives this market, with successful operators carving out niches. Outback Steakhouse menus several specialty drinks that reflect its Australian theme, including Wallaby Darned with peaches, vodka and peach-flavored liqueur.
Ten of the top 20 full-service chains feature specialty drinks, either with alcohol or without. The Fruit Boozie Daiquiri is one of several exclusive drinks served by Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Spirits. The drink features rum and a choice of fruit including peach and banana.
While independents tend to stick with wine, beer and sodas with success, several highlight nonalcoholic beverages. Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling, Ill., for example, menus guava juice as part of its unlimited-beverages dinner package.
Limited-service chains also differentiate themselves with their milkshakes and ice cream- and fruit-based drinks. Virtually all such operations menu carbonated beverages, though each serves up its own twist on the dessert-as-drink. Subway sells its Fruizle Express drinks, which feature various fruit blends. Hardee's, which has recently altered its milkshakes by making each by hand rather than from a mix, offers a classic strawberry shake.
While coffee remains a No. 1 offering on its own or as a base for flavorful concoctions, teas are fighting for position. Applebee's extensive coffee-drink offerings include coffee-flavored liqueurs while New York City's Tao features a tea-based drink menu featuring 20 varieties that range from the exotic-such as Panyang Congou-to the more mainstream oolong.
On the Menu
Among current beverage trends and creations at operations:
Cool Green Tea
Green tea infused with honeydew melon, blended with ice and topped with whipped cream. -Panera Bread, multiple locations
Ultimate Leaning Bellini: Rum, peach nectar, white wine, champagne and red-raspberry liqueur, blended and frozen. -Romano's Macaroni Grill, multiple locations
Orange Dragon: Orange vodka, orange liqueur, orange and cranberry juices. -Tao Asian Bistro, New York City
Italian Margherita: Lime, grappa and limoncello liqueur. -Alfredo the Original of Rome, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Bananaberry Split: Spiced rum, strawberries, bananas, pineapple and coconut blended with ice. -Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar, multiple locations
According to R&I's 2005 Menu Census, these are the most often offered beverages:
|8.||Coffee drinks (alcoholic)||41%|
|3.||Milk (regular, skim, etc)||90%|