Restaurants are no strangers to seasonal menus, since most make regular changes to their offerings through both permanent and limited-time dishes in order to keep menus fresh and attract guests year-round. While many brands know that this strategy is effective for food, some don’t apply the same thinking to their beverage menus—and failing to do so could cost a brand valuable sales.
“Seasonal beverages can have a positive impact on customer loyalty,” says Eric Whitehouse, who leads National Accounts and New Business Marketing for PepsiCo Foodservice. “Returning guests will appreciate having something new to try on the drink menu. And beverage LTOs can also bring in new consumers that want to try these seasonal flavors—even those who might be on the periphery of the operator’s consumer target or completely outside of it altogether. Best of all, average check size increases with seasonal beverages, as there is a higher attachment rate of food to the beverage.”
By changing beverage menus throughout the year with series of seasonal menus and LTOs, brands can introduce novelty to their beverage programs. As NPD Group reported in 2015, by setting limited timeframes in which guests can order these products, restaurants can also create a sense of urgency to order for their guests.
Seasonal beverages are not just limited to cold months. LTOs can be offered year-round to drive sales. As many restaurants plan their late summer and early fall menus, they can look to lighter, more refreshing beverages to attract consumers who want to cool off in the heat. The 2017 Google Beverage Trends Report says that prime selections for these summer and early fall menus could include flavored and enhanced waters, iced and cold brew coffees, lemonades, and other beverages that use in-season fruits and vegetables as key ingredients.
Additionally, many restaurants can drive sales by focusing on the inherent nostalgia some flavor pairings create. Mintel’s “Seasonal Dining Trends 2018” report states that targeting emotional behaviors and driving increased consumer awareness can make these seasonal offerings more successful. For example, when a brand offers a strawberry lemonade, this may resonate with many guests who remember drinking that beverage on an outdoor patio with family and friends, so they may be more likely to order in the restaurant.
“Beverages can be just as experiential as food menu items,” says Mike Stern, PepsiCo Foodservice Director of Culinary Innovation. “Offering the elevated experience of thoughtfully produced seasonal beverages, made with quality ingredients and given the same attention you give food dishes, will set you apart from other restaurants and provide a new experience for your existing consumer target.”
The most important consideration, of course, is to choose beverages that appeal to the brand’s customer base and pair well with flavors while adding some creative interest. Whitehouse added, “One of the ways you can drive sales and business success is by providing beverages to appeal to your consumers’ want for premium, innovative products or their want for beverages that provide the benefits they care about most.”