Driving consumer enthusiasm

smoothie fruit beverage drink options

From Kraft Foodservice.

Today more than ever, consumers seek elevated experiences when dining away from home. For operators, this means that offering items that are designed to generate enthusiasm is crucial in order to effectively compete for share of stomach.

One way that operators can meet the increasing consumer demand for excitement is by giving consumers the power to make menu items their own. In fact, the idea of customization is driving menu development today, according to Justin Massa, CEO of Chicago-based research firm Food Genius, in part because younger consumers have come to expect it. "The influence of millennials and their need to make everything their own is leading to more customizable options throughout the foodservice industry,” he says.

This consumer craving for individuality and customization often rings especially true with beverages, especially for younger consumers. According to Massa, millennials have grown up with a plethora of beverage options, and the introduction of customizable beverage products in the consumer packaged goods industry has led them to expect those same options from foodservice operators.

“One area where we are expecting to see customization spread further in 2015 is beverage programs,” says Massa. “Beverage customization programs are becoming more common in independent restaurants as operators focus in on marketing to millennial tendencies towards individuality and adventuresome ordering.”

But offering customizable beverage options isn’t just limited to commercial operators. According to FARE’s 2014 State of Foodservice Study, 42 percent of non-commercial C&U operators and 28 percent of hospital operators identified made-to-order specialty coffee drinks as one beverage category with the highest sales growth potential in the next year. Similarly, 34 percent of C&U operators and 19 percent of hospital operators said that made-to-order smoothies were a beverage category with high growth potential as well.

Here’s a few tips for operators who want to add customizable options to their beverage menus:

  • Keep it simple. A well-documented study from Columbia University showed that when faced with too many choices, consumers often become overwhelmed and instead, choose nothing. To combat this so-called “paradox of choice,” focus on offering several standout ingredients and options on your beverage menu rather than offering too many.
  • Include healthy options. The health and wellness trend is here to stay, so giving guests the option to order a latte with skim or reduced-fat milk, for example, can be a way to appeal to consumers who seek healthy options as well as customizable ones.
  • But don’t forget about indulgence. On the flip side, a significant number of consumers seek indulgence in their eating occasion—so much so that Technomic included indulgent menu options as a top trend for 2014. Thus, it’s important to offer craveable beverage options that are suitable for any eating occasion or that will satisfy a guest’s sweet tooth.
  • It’s not just about soft drinks. Consumers are continuing to seek beverage options outside of carbonated soft drinks—in fact, carbonated soft drink volume declined 3 percent in 2013, according to Beverage Digest. Try offering optional enhancements that jazz up water or tea, such as fresh fruit or fruit juice, liquid water enhancers or herbal-infused drinks.