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National Restaurant Association - Chefs say specialty, scratch-made drinks top trend list

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Chefs say specialty, scratch-made drinks top trend list

The popularity of nonalcoholic beverages is poised to grow as summer sets in, and restaurateurs are embracing trends that should boost drink sales at their various operations.

According to the National Restaurant Association's 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast, a majority of chefs surveyed said consumers at both fullservice and limited-service restaurants would have their choice of more made-from-scratch, specialty and culinary-inspired beverages.

This year's "hot" beverage trends are:

1. House-made soft drinks

2. Specialty iced teas, such as Thai-style, Southern/sweet and flavored

3. Gourmet or house-made lemonade

4. Organic coffee

5. Dairy-free milk, such as soy or rice

"Today's savvy restaurant patrons now expect to have a broad choice in nonalcoholic beverages across all day parts," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA's Research & Knowledge Center. "Because of this, operators have responded with a spectrum of new offerings, including signature beverages, not only as a response to their customers' evolving tastes and interests, but also as a point of competitive differentiation."

The report also noted that customers of quickservice and fast-casual restaurants — in addition to their demand for these new beverages — still have perennial favorites on the menu. Those, too, include soft drinks and iced tea.

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