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National Restaurant Association - Pour specialty beverages customers crave

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Pour specialty beverages customers crave

Customers flock to restaurants for fantastic food and drink experiences. If you do not offer specialty beverages, you may be missing out on revenue and brand awareness opportunities. The Cheesecake Factory’s CEO reviews in-house beverage options daily. As Heather Berry, the Cheesecake Factory’s vice president of beverage and bakery operations, said, “Beverages are as important as entrees and desserts.”

By staying abreast of beverage trends and consumer preferences, you can make a mark in the industry’s specialty beverage space. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 “What’s Hot” chefs’ survey, gourmet lemonade is the second most popular nonalcoholic beverage.  

The Cheesecake Factory offers 40-plus specialty drinks, including nonalcoholic beverages. For more than two decades, the company has served its proprietary classic and strawberry lemonades. In August 2015, for the first time in more than 15 years, it debuted two new lemonade flavors: cucumber and hibiscus.  

“Our lemonades taste homemade, but they’re something you can’t replicate at home,” said Berry. “Our strawberry and raspberry lemonades are prepared daily in the restaurants. Guests love the flavor profiles, the freshness and free refills.”

Founded in 2009, Bareburger serves up more than 30 nonalcoholic specialty beverages. Its classic and strawberry lemonades, as well as rosemary limeade, prove very popular.

“Our lemonades are more tart than sweet,” said Bareburger beverage director Bobby Bodell. As with its burgers, “we use all-natural, organic ingredients, and the lemonade options are in high-demand.”

Both brands use real lemon juice and, when applicable, mix in fruit purees on-site. As you formulate your own signature beverage recipes, Berry recommends seeking out recognizable yet fun flavors. “Try to think about alternatives and twists – something now, something relevant, something fresh. You also need to be able to execute it consistently in restaurants.”

In addition to stressing the importance of tasting, experimenting with new ideas and having fun with the process, Bodell feels listening to guests’ observations is crucial to developing brand signatures. “We have comment cards at every location, and we get a lot of feedback from servers and managers.”

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