We’ve been researching beverages in preparation for our upcoming beverage trends report, and it’s making me thirsty.
I remember the first time I walked into a Bubba Gump’s (they were new at the time) Restaurant and found the Speckled Lemonade on the menu. I was entranced at its originality and flavor.
I remember the first time, at a-definitely-upscale restaurant, when my water glass included a slice of cucumber.
I even remember my first Sonic Sunrise, when I tried the mix of their classic Cherry Limeade and orange juice and, somehow, felt more awake and refreshed.
Drinks, in other words, have an impact. Think about it: They are the one part of the meal you never leave out. You can do without dessert or appetizer, but drink? Really, never. It’s the first thing your server asks about, and it’s the one thing that keeps bringing someone back to your table.
In fact, I was amused lately when we were nearing the end of our meal at a lovely white tablecloth restaurant, and the attentive young man who had filled our water glasses throughout the evening appeared once more. Mindful of water shortages and the fact that we were close to finished, I simply placed my hand over my glass as a signal that I was done. He leaned in close and whispered, “I have to fill it, miss. If they see a glass without water I’ll get in trouble.” I hastily removed my hand.
Drinks are also cause for loyalty. I heard someone from McAlister’s Deli talk about their “Tea Freaks”—those obsessed people who go to McAlister’s as much for the sweet tea as for any other menu item.
And, they are fodder for innovation. We got a kick out of Ben Hirko, the guy who created Benny’s Bloody Mary Beef Straws. He told us, “I was bartending and I was bored.” Next thing you know, he’s come up with a type of beef jerky with a hole in the center. It’s not that different, in concept anyway, from the Milk Straws that won awards at this years Sweets & Snacks Expo.
Recently, I read where soda is still the beverage of choice with most restaurant meals, but that it is slipping just a bit. Part of that has to be because of the wide variety of choices now in front of us. We are drinking flavored waters, Arnold Palmer’s, craft root beers, and a multitude of other beverages.
So, check out our beverage trends report. But, take my advice. Have a drink nearby.