Beverages may not be the stars of most restaurant menus, but ignoring the power of these items is a big mistake. In Coca-Cola’s 2016 “Away From Home Beverage Landscape Study,” researchers found that in 45 percent of all away-from-home eating and drinking occasions, beverage drives restaurant selection, and 10 percent of the time, beverage is even more influential than food.
Even if a concept isn’t typically know for its drink menu, offering a selection of bold, trendy beverages can differentiate restaurants and draw in traffic. Here is what you need to know about the hot beverages consumers want in 2017.
The National Coffee Association’s 2017 National Coffee Drinking Trends reports that the number of Americans consuming coffee on a daily basis rose from 57 percent in 2016 to 62 percent. Additionally, specialty coffee beverages are rising in popularity. This is especially true of cold brew, which became a hot item last year and continues to be a popular choice across the industry.
“Coffee is a trend that will last until the end of time,” says Kyle Algaze, chief operating officer of Maryland-based Iron Rooster. “People are really getting more into coffee and want to understand where it’s coming from.”
Additionally, locally and house-roasted coffees are on the rise. The National Restaurant Association also named locally and house-roasted coffees a “What’s Hot 2017” trend.
“People are starting to do their homework on coffee, and I think that’s what you’re going to see more of,” Algaze says. “We’re a breakfast business so we always see a rise in coffee in the morning, and our guests always looking for a better cup.”
Another NRA “What’s Hot 2017” trend, tea, is growing rapidly. The Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc. reports that Americans consumed 84 billion servings of tea in 2016, and overall tea imports grew by 1 percent. The Tea Association also reports on it’s 2016-2017 Tea Fact Sheet that 80 percent of all tea consumed in the U.S. is iced, making it a key beverage choice for many consumers.
For consumers interested in healthier beverages, tea is a perfect fit as a natural beverage that offers a variety of flavors and styles. It also fits many lifestyles and occasions, making it a go-to anytime drink.
3. Juices and Smoothies
Fresh juices and smoothies are growing in popularity on the heels of the healthy food trend as consumers turn away from sodas in favor of drinks with health benefits.
“Our fresh juice program definitely feels ahead of its time as we rolled it out in 2015, but we are starting to see other brands understand the value and appeal of fresh juices,” says Chef Shane Schaibly of First Watch Restaurants. “While we were on the front end of this trend and have proven it successful for our brand, it continues to evolve, not so much in the sense that new fruits and vegetables are being juiced, but instead we’re incorporating additional ingredients, such as nut milks and sweeteners.”
While traditional favorites like freshly squeezed orange juice are still popular, consumers become more familiar with healthier ingredients, such as kale, opportunities for creative juices abound.
“We are offering a lot of healthier drinks,” says Ype Von Hengst vice president of culinary operations and co-founder of Silver Diner Restaurants. “It’s not just locally roasted coffee, which is a must, but it’s also kale, apple, and ginger, and a red beat and orange drink. “We’re serving a lot of freshly squeezed juices, especially for people who want a liquid breakfast and order kale and ginger drinks.”
For example, Silver New American Brasserie offers Green Giant juice, which features kale, spinach, cucumber, and apple, and What’s Up Doc juice, featuring carrot, ginger, apple, and orange. Both of which Von Hengst says have been met with enthusiasm from customers.
4. Gourmet Lemonade
As consumers look for a larger variety of non-soda beverages, lemonade, like juice, is also growing. Named another “What’s Hot 2017” trend, gourmet varieties of this sweet and sour beverage with new flavor blends and no artificial ingredients offer a refreshing twist consumers crave.
5. Natural Sweeteners
With natural ingredients and clean menus ranked number three on the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot Culinary Forecast for 2017, it’s no wonder that the trend would carry over into beverages. As many of this year’s popular drinks require sweetening, it makes sense that natural sweeteners would be on trend, too.
“Natural sweeteners are becoming more popular, specifically when blended with fresh fruit juices,” Schaibly says.
These sweeteners can be honey, agave, or organic cane sugar that eliminates bleach and other refining chemicals traditionally found in sugar products.
By menuing a wide variety of unique beverages, restaurants can attract consumer attention and become a go-to destination. Additionally, with high margins, beverage represents a key profit center for many restaurants. By paying attention to these top trends, restaurants can better serve consumers and stay relevant in a crowded market.