Today’s Snackscape Provides New Opportunities to Drive Your Beverage Business
Restaurants are rethinking their menus now that we have become a nation of snackers. For operators, expanding dayparts and the broadening definition of snacks bring new snack time beverage opportunities. Approximately 80 percent of consumers report they snack at least once a day, according to the Technomic 2018 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report. Lunch remains the meal most likely to be replaced by a snack, creating an opening for mid-morning and mid-afternoon specialties.
Snacks offer numerous business-building opportunities. Consider developing snacks not only for those in-between times that bookend traditional lunch hours, but also all-day breakfast offerings and late-evening choices. Few items on a restaurant menu go together like coffee and all-day breakfast bites. Also, specialty coffee beverages—the quintessential energy drinks—serve as stand-alone afternoon refueling snacks.
Coffee is also appearing more frequently in cocktails and can complement a variety of bar bites during happy hour. Offering a range of dessert-compatible coffee drinks can boost late-night check averages. Here are some suggestions for boosting beverage profits in this era of snacking.
- Inspired LTOs: The off-peak hours at restaurants are ideal for promoting specials that bundle beverages with mini meals or macro snacks. Pairings such as a burger slider and a mini mocha milkshake help build repeat business. Create sippable signature snacks such as cold brew smoothies or energy-boosting high protein coffee shakes with protein powder plus dairy, soy or almond milk. Or, offer indulgent tea and coffee beverages served with edible garnishes.
- Picture this: Develop snacks and beverages that have social media appeal. Visually attractive food and drink presentations can get the word out about your LTOs and loyalty programs, especially among millennials. They’re the group most likely to use social media for ideas about where to eat, and are attracted by the variety, lower price points and new food experiences of snacks. When it comes to social media success, the over-the-top milkshakes at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in New York City immediately come to mind. The giant rainbow-colored, candy-coated milkshakes topped with slices of cakes and mini cheeseburgers were an instant hit on Instagram, creating nationwide recognition and two-hour wait times.
- Tie into your restaurant’s beverage culture: Cuisine-compatible drinks underscore your restaurant’s snack menu. At LondonHouse Chicago, the reimagined tea service is an afternoon indulgence, with snacks such as pistachio donuts dangling like ornaments from a rectangular tea tower.
- Tap into food trends: Maybe your after-work customers want to chill out with a cold brew and a hot snack. According to Mintel research, cold brew coffee sales have increased 450 percent over the past two years. Other patrons may seek out wellness-focused choices. Datassential research shows that 78 percent of restaurant consumers want more functional foods and beverages. Set healthful snacks apart by offering unexpected flavor variations, such as chocolate hummus or lavender lattes.
- Take flight with flavor: Customers enjoy experiential opportunities like sipping wine flights with snacks, but why not branch out with caffeinated beverages? Selections might include several regional coffees, coffee with added flavors such as turmeric or ginseng, or teas with floral infusions like hibiscus, rose and lavender—all served with compatible breads and dips.
- Express social consciousness: The nation’s more than 80 million tech-savvy millennials are said to make up 51 percent of fast casual customers. The National Restaurant Association notes that this group is drawn to brands that support sustainability and give back to the community.
Whether looking to drive off-hour sales or simply wanting to further your beverage program, finding creative ways to leverage the all-day snacking trend can be a great opportunity to attract new business. Think about how beverages can stand alone as a snackable item (e.g., specialty cold coffee and tea drinks) and how they can support your food sales (e.g., menu bundles, happy hour specials). There’s never been a better time to expand your beverage business.