Smoothies and shakes: Blended investment

A selection of fruit smoothies can add on-trend beverage choices to your menu and boost your average check. There are several ways to go when it comes to purchasing and operating strategies.

Fresh from scratch smoothies are the most difficult to execute. Fresh fruit is not simple to select, buy, store and handle. Often you have to ripen fruit shipped green, and there’s a brief window of usability—waste can be a problem. In addition, fresh fruit has to be peeled, pitted and otherwise prepped, which can impact labor costs. Seasonality is often a factor, too. That said, fresh fruit smoothies made from scratch are a classy beverage offering and can be promoted and priced to reflect that.

Many of the purchasing difficulties with fresh can be avoided by using IQF (individually quick frozen) fruit. Seasonality is no longer an issue, and fruit frozen at its peak can be better quality than fresh fruit that’s past its prime. Check deliveries at the back door to ensure that the product is still frozen solid. A good compromise is to combine IQF product with dependable fresh varieties, such as bananas and citrus, that are generally available year round.

Perhaps the easiest way to serve a smoothie is to buy one of the many mixes on the market. Powders and concentrates require messy mixing and usually don’t produce the best-quality final product. A better choice is full-strength smoothie mix, available in a huge variety of flavors. These products usually come in reclosable 1-liter boxes, which are shelf-stable until opened. To use, just puree in a blender with ice. This type of smoothie mix can also be dispensed from a granita machine.

A whole new category of smoothie has grown up around tea. Black tea, green tea, white tea and especially chai (a spicy milky tea concoction) are all available in concentrate form, ready to blend with ice and serve. The latest entry is yerba mate, a South American tea drink that’s also being promoted as a smoothie. For a signature smoothie, add fresh or frozen fruit to these tea concentrates.

A favorite way to upgrade smoothie selections is with ingredient additions. Yogurt, milk, ice cream, sherbet or sorbet all thicken and/or add richness. Soy or rice milk are dairy-free variations. Bee pollen, kelp, soy protein, creatine, whey, wheatgrass, echinacea and ginkgo biloba appeal to the health-seeking crowd, but you’ll have to go outside the usual supply channels to purchase most of them.

Finally, pomegranates, tart cherries, blueberries and acai berries are all touted for their high antioxidant levels. It’s easy—although relatively expensive—to add a dose of these healthy juices to any smoothie.

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