Customers want their dining out to be more than just eating away from home, so it’s important to make sure every aspect of your restaurant shows commitment to high standards. Additionally, with increasing consumer focus on the quality of ingredients already occurring in food, it’s no surprise that the next big area of focus for elevated quality is beverage.
Strong beverage programs can help restaurants drive high profit margins, but consumers will only pay more for beverages that are a step above what they could find at any other competitor.
“With more foodservice operators showing care and consideration behind their food and preparations, the next segment of an operation that a consumer is looking to is the bar,” says James Bickmore-Hutt, culinary R&D manager and corporate chef for Dole Packaged Foods. “They want to know that absolutely every part of their experience in a restaurant is treated with the same level of care. In the age of Instagram and instant review platforms, such as Yelp, an establishment needs to individualize itself to that it stands out from a group. Being derivative can be catastrophic for the success of a business.”
A good bar menu, however, can help brands stand out from the crowd and draw in more traffic.
The biggest consideration in developing a strong bar menu is diversity of offerings, including everything from sweet to savory and from beer and wine to cocktails and mocktails. By offering a wide selection, brands can attract numerous types of consumers and increase their earning potential.
“A good bar menu will offer a style of drink for all types of consumers, showing as much consideration for developing non-alcoholic beverages for those that don’t partake as they do when building their next cocktail,” Bickmore-Hutt says. “The days of generic beer and wine lists are gone. There now needs to be a story behind the production and the flavor and pairing possibilities of not just beer and wine, but cocktails and mocktails.”
Offering unexpected beverages can help set brands apart. Take an Apple Berry Smash, for example. This type of beverage featuring DOLE Chef-Ready Frozen Strawberry Puree, ginger-flavored liqueur, afresh agave sour, and lime zest, isn’t a traditional cocktail, but because it features beloved ingredients, like strawberry puree, it has the power to convert customers in to loyal guests.
Developing a robust drink menu, however, takes time and resources. It can be difficult for bartenders to find time to create new beverages when the bar is busy and stocking more SKUs can be costly, as it increases order costs and could generate more waste. This is why it’s crucial to start building a program by using quality ingredients that can help beverage teams elevate drinks but that can also be used in many different applications. Additionally, look for items that can save bartenders steps to save on labor costs while boosting creativity and consistency.
“There are always challenges associated with education and technique when creating new elevated cocktails and mocktails at scale,” Bickmore-Hutt says. “Because it takes time to develop flavor through marinating and infusing ingredients, making large batches of purees is a slow process, and it can be difficult to control for quality. Making sure that every sip and every cocktail tastes the same, every time, can be very challenging without the right processes set into place.”
Using the right ingredients, however, can help relieve this strain. Dole Frozen Fruit Purees, for example, can be easily added to a bar set-up and can help your bartenders make stunning drinks without inordinate amounts of training or equipment.
“These purees allow operators to showcase fresh and bold flavors in dynamic ways without having to spend money on the laborious process of hand-making them,” he says. “Dole’s no-sugar-added purees allow for the broadest range of creative freedom. They can be incorporated into any mix without overpowering the flavor profile with too much sweetness. Whether it is creating a uniquely flavored shrub base or a house-infused liquor, they can help elevate the image and appeal of even the simplest of beverage builds.”
For example, though a Spirited Peach and Mint Cooler may seem simple since it features relatively few ingredients, DOLE Chef-Ready Frozen Peach Puree or DOLE Chef-Ready Cuts Diced Peaches can still help save bartenders valuable prep time. They also elevate beverages by adding a natural peach flavor that will delight guests.
In today’s market, customers want something they can’t get anywhere else. One of the easiest ways to elevate your bar menu, Bickmore-Hutt says, is to start with a handful of cocktails and give them your own special twist. Whether it’s by using Dole fruit purees to create a special flavor-infused liquor or pairing fruit flavors with alcohol to create modern cocktails, shaking things up sets a brand apart from its competition and adds the perception of higher value in the consumer’s mind.
“'Elevated' can mean many things when referring to a beverage. It can be a reference to the house-made syrup that has been added to a drink or the house-infused liquor,” he says. “It could also refer to the use of premium ingredients, which will warrant a higher price point for the drink. However, another way to look at the concept of elevating a beverage would be the level of craftsmanship the bartender puts into it, by either handshaking the drink or building the drink on top of the bar—all of which will establish a greater level of sophistication.”
For example, a restaurant could elevate the traditional Old Fashioned by adding strawberry. Bickmore-Hutt suggests using DOLE Chef-Ready Frozen Strawberry puree to create a white balsamic shrub that can elevate this classic cocktail. “The strawberry flavor partners perfectly with the flavor profile of a reimagined Old Fashioned,” he says.
Many restaurants already incorporate fruit in their cocktails, but today’s consumers want more than a slice of lemon on the rim of a glass. Brands that go beyond this and embrace fruit flavors all across the beverage menu can truly shine. Because fruit flavors go nicely with wine, beer, or other alcohol and can pair with sweet drinks or savory ones, infusing fruit flavors can help elevate virtually any beverage.
“Fresh fruit flavors are a great way of showing premium quality ingredients in a beverage. They also lead to more thought and discussion around complimentary flavor pairings,” Bickmore-Hutt says. Of course, pairing the right flavors is crucial to boosting consumer appeal, so it’s smart for brands to start with many of the most popular fruit flavors. Bickmore-Hutt suggests using consumer favorites like mango, strawberry, peach, and blackberry because they are already beloved ingredients.
A Mango Beer Cocktail could be the perfect fit for the menu. Bickmore-Hutt pairs DOLE’s Chef-Ready Frozen Mango Puree with a hefeweizen or an amber ale to create a delicious pairing that is both refreshing and intriguing.
The same puree could also be repurposed to create a Cucumber Chili Mango Switchel featuring cucumber chili tequila and elderflower liqueur to create a fruity, yet spicy beverage.
While most bars and restaurants put the most energy into developing alcoholic beverages, a strong selection of non-alcoholic mixed drinks can go a long way in attracting guests and driving sales. Not only do mocktails encourage consumers who aren’t drinking to upgrade their beverage, driving profits, but it can also demonstrate that the restaurant is looking out for all its guests. Additionally, a craveable mocktail can entice families with children and non-drinkers alike to come back for more.
Fortunately, high-end mocktails can be crafted with many of the same ingredients as a cocktail. “Mocktails are only made more enticing when using Dole’s puree line,” Bickmore-Hutt says. “This will allow for more color, natural sweetener, and fun flavor pairing, like peach and mint sparklers or a blackberry Arnold Palmer.”
Another idea could be combining DOLE Chef-Ready Frozen Strawberry Puree with DOLE Pineapple Juice and lemon-lime soda to create a Blushing Dole.
When taking your bar to the next level, adding Dole Frozen Fruit Purees can help take a generic standard and turn it into a signature cocktail. Don’t hesitate to try unique flavor combinations because guests appreciate unique beverage selections. For example a Mango Chili Limeade featuring DOLE Chef-Ready Frozen Mango Puree could give guests just the refreshing, spicy kick they want.
Elevated bar menus show your customers that not only is your foodservice establishment concerned with their experience from start to finish, but that you care enough to use fresh, bold flavors that will make their drinks, and by default their evenings, something special.