Beverages represent a menu category that often goes overlooked, but having a handle on their potential is essential. Crafting a quality program is one way to entice customers, increase ticket averages, and help your restaurant emerge from the pack.

Think of your beverage program as more than a list of drinks, but as a fully developed offering to delight your guests and improve return business. It’s a good place to demonstrate creativity, play with trending ingredients, and provide something tailored to your audience’s specific needs. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Cocktails vs. Mocktails

Having a well-rounded beverage program is huge for appealing to a wide range of consumers, whose drink preferences vary widely from one age group to another. While baby boomers still enjoy drinking beer, wine, and cocktails, studies are finding that Gen Z drinkers are ordering less alcohol than before the pandemic. And when they do consume alcohol, they prefer drinks with a lower ABV.

Millennials tend to drink less alcohol than boomers but more than Gen-Z, placing them somewhere in the middle. When presented with this information, it’s clear that a successful beverage program will include a mix of classic and creative cocktails with alcoholic, low ABV, and non-alcoholic selections. You can use items like Ascend® juices and mixers to create attractive cocktails and mocktails for this menu.

Great Garnishes

Eye-catching and fun garnishes can make the difference between an ordinary beverage and a drink that gets shared widely on social media. They are also smart, low-cost ways to make a cocktail or mocktail appear more high-end.

A few examples of easy garnishes that add value include mini clothespins for attaching flowers, fresh herbs, or dried citrus; using unexpected ingredients like sesame seeds or ground spices for textured rims; and molding ice cubes in different shapes or filling them with fruit, vegetables, or flowers. Look around the kitchen at items you can repurpose in creative ways, and let your team think outside the box to come up with garnishes that are one-of-a-kind.

Form Meets Functional

Functional drinks seek to enhance the beverage experience beyond taste and hydration with features designed to improve the drinker’s health or general experience. The category includes things like kombucha, energy drinks, and vitamin-fueled water, but recently has been expanding and trending for consumers who are interested in avoiding alcohol. These drinks are more aligned with a wellness space. If it makes sense for your brand, it may be wise to include a few functional beverages on your menu to appeal to this crowd. You may also consider using them as a jumping off point for creative mocktails.

Tea Time

One oft-overlooked beverage category is tea, but it too is enjoying a trending moment, especially among Gen Z consumers, with 37% of them saying that tea is part of their routine. Teas can run the gamut from highly caffeinated to caffeine free, in just about any flavor you can imagine. In addition to offering a selection of hot and cold teas, consider using Guest House® Premium Teas in cocktails and mocktails, providing another use for these drinks to maximize their profitability across your menu.

We All Scream For…

Ice cream! Whether it’s a fully loaded, wildly garnished milkshake that will turn heads and wind up all over Instagram or a simple, classic milkshake with whipped cream and a cherry on top, including ice cream in your beverage program is a frosty way to entice guests who are looking for something sweet but may not want to commit to a full dessert.

Another clever way to include ice cream in your beverage program is by offering affogato, an Italian dessert drink that combines a scoop of ice cream and a shot of espresso (and occasionally a spirit like amaretto). You can get creative with pairings of different ice cream flavors with expresso or even hot tea to make something unique.

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