As foodservice operators from all segments prepare to mount a comeback from the trials and tribulations of COVID-19, expect beverages to be a key element in any successful campaign.
The reason behind this thinking is simple: Beverages typically come to the table with higher margins than food items. For that reason, enhanced beverage sales will have the opportunity to help operators not only increase top line revenues but inject some life into their bottom lines as well.
And, let’s face it, from coffee to cocktails, everyone has their favorite drink that helps them start their day, cap off a meal or celebrate good times with family and friends — something we will no doubt get back to in the near future.
Beverages appeal to consumers on a variety of levels. Frozen beverages, for example, allow customers to feel indulgent and to consume items they might not be able to make at home, like a slushie. I recall a summer vacation to Florida where my three daughters preferred to take their daily doses of frozen lemonade poolside. Preparing and serving something like this requires specialty equipment, though, such as a frozen beverage maker/slushie machine (page 20). This kind of equipment continues to evolve, allowing for more menu flexibility and creativity. Operators can choose between floor and tabletop items to meet space constraints, too.
Then, of course, there are cocktails. Back when Frank Sinatra was frequenting places like PJ Clarke’s and Jilly’s in New York City, cocktails were pretty straightforward, by and large. Legend has it that Old Blue Eyes liked two fingers of Jack Daniels with three or four ice cubes and water served in a rocks glass. If only things were that simple today.
In recent years restaurants and bars have unlocked the creativity of bartenders and mixologists, allowing them to pursue their vision one glass at a time, often blending the old with the new. In Chicago, for example, the Violet Hour offers new takes on old favorites like the Manhattan. It also offers a variety of new and innovative options. One such example is You’re Fired, which includes mezcal, rum, yellow chartreuse, maraschino liquor and lime. Or how about Fingers Crossed, which includes spiced rum, crème de banana, falernum and grilled pineapple.
To help weather the pandemic, Violet Hour took advantage of updated regulations that allowed businesses to deliver beer, wine, liquor and even cocktail kits to consumers of legal drinking age. With one of its There and Back offerings, Violet Hour took customers on a trip back to 1930s Cuba with a cocktail quartet: Hemingway Daquiri, Hotel Nacional, El Presidente and Hush & Wonder.
In turning their alcohol-infused visions into reality, operators continue to leverage some of the most tried-and-true equipment options in the foodservice industry, ranging from coffee brewers to blenders to undercounter refrigerators. Indeed, these equipment and supply items are necessary tools to bring these drinks to life.
So, please join me in raising a glass to beverages!