6 Flavor-Savvy Strategies for Your Beverage Program

BY CHEF ERIC NAKATA

Even if your clientele seems like beverage purists, before you decide to take a flavor waiver this season, consider that flavor-forward beverage programs appeal to consumers. For example, Mintel research shows that 28 percent of customers in the 18- to 23-year-old age group say they most often order flavored iced coffee.1 The simplest way to create your own specialties is to build fun into the familiar. Offer innovative signature beverages. Adding a new flavor twist keeps your beverage menu current without sacrificing the cachet of coffee and tea classics. Customers also appreciate having the option of dairy milk or alternatives such as almond, soy or oat milk.

Here are six foodservice trends to keep in mind when you’re creating new drink options.

1. Offer a sense of the season: Alternate botanical flavors to complement each season, or feature specialties that can build winter traffic. For inspiration during the holiday winter months, consider adding holiday cookie or candy flavors to coffee drinks. Baking spices and flavored syrups can trigger nostalgic memories. Create sippable versions of gingerbread, fruitcake, peppermint sticks, sugar cookies or toffee bars. Beverage garnishes might include ribbon candy or slices of candied ginger.

2. Going global makes sense: Introduce customers to globally inspired flavors in beverages. Approximately 48% of millennials are willing to try a new food that sounds interesting.2 For example, rose water was one of the trending flavors to watch this year.3 It’s popular in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, and is compatible with fruity teas. For coffee, a sprinkling of the warming North African spice blend ras el hanout can create a stir. At Shiraz in Las Vegas, the signature Sultan’s Tea cocktail underscores the restaurant’s Indian, Pakistani and Persian cuisine. The cocktail is made with rum infused with Ceylon and Earl Grey teas.4

3. Create flavored beverage buzz with coffee- and tea-based ingredients: For cocktails, Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans uses ingredients like mulled wine tea syrup that contains hibiscus, apple, cinnamon, orange and a little celery oil. In Restaurant Hospitality’s recent list of the 2018 Best Cocktails in America, five of the 10 cocktails featured tea—matcha, herbal, Ceylon and Earl Grey teas—as an ingredient.4

 

4. Upgrade your mocktail menu with the addition of coffee and tea. Leverage the cold brew and nitro coffee trend to add a pop of bright flavor and caffeine to your mocktails, or enhance tea-based beverages with botanical flavors like lavender and elderflower to stir new interest. Edison’s Espresso and Tea Bar in New Orleans makes its own espresso cinnamon syrup, and has a lineup of alcohol-free cocktails like the virgin Bloody Mary topped with an espresso float. According to Datassential research, 28 percent of operators have seen a rise in their sales of non-alcohol beverages.5

5. Offer a custom taste of functional ingredients: Approximately 38 percent of operators attribute their increased sale of alcohol-free drinks to functional and wellness-related items.5 Examples include ginger-flavored teas, turmeric lattes and naturally occurring probiotics found in beverages like kombucha. Some restaurants, such as Brider in Denver, ferment their own kombucha with teas and added flavoring ingredients.

6. It pays to add the flavor notes your customers want: Cold brew is a craft product with legs, seen everywhere from Honolulu’s Brue Bar in handcrafted coffee drinks to Denny’s, where sweetened or unsweetened versions are available at its restaurants across the country. Eat’n Park, the 60-unit regional family restaurant chain, offers beverages that complement its food menu such as the Mocha Java Milkshake, made with the restaurant’s cold brew coffee.

 

Mintel, Functional benefits top off attributes US consumers look for in ready-to-drink cold coffee, Sep. 25, 2018

2 Datassential, FoodBytes: Millennials: What Are They Eating? (downloadable at https://datassential.com/Home/DownloadPdf?pdfFile=02-2018), Feb. 2018

3 Kostyo, Mike, “Top 10 flavors to watch in 2018,” SmartBrief, Dec. 21, 2017

4 Restaurant Hospitality, 2018 Best Cocktails in America: The Sultan’s Tea, Nov. 14, 2018

5 Food Management, Data: Spilling the tea on new non-alcoholic beverage trends, Oct. 17, 2018