Catering for trend-oriented restaurant visitors

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Satisfying consumers’ insatiable appetite for new and exciting things is key to a successful beverage operation. Trends to watch include the rise of functional plant-based beverages, rising demand for flavorful, sophisticated low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages, and the evolution of coffeehouse favorites like boba tea and Thai tea into cocktail platforms.

Vegetable and functional

Better drinks — including probiotic drinks and immune-boosting drinks with botanical ingredients like elderberry, ginger, turmeric, oats, herbs and flowers — are gaining ground in hospitality and retail. Consumers are increasingly opting for functional benefits such as boosting energy, boosting the immune system, promoting gut health, reducing stress and improving mental function. The latter is particularly popular today.

In fact, research from Datassential shows that more than half of consumers overall and 66 percent of millennials are very or very likely to buy foods that support mental well-being. “I don’t think it’s surprising now after the pandemic and all the anxiety that consumers have been experiencing that many of them are really drawn to foods that speak to their mental health,” said Datassential trendologist Mike Kostyo, the trends webinar 2022 presented in Datassential.

Healthy twists

With this in mind, botanical ingredients are the top choice for operators catering to customers who are wellness minded yet indulgent.

At Dirty Habit, a restaurant-bar at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Washington, DC, fresh fruits and vegetables, teas, herbs, flowers, syrups and infusions shine in both cocktails and zero-proof drinks.

“People are now looking for a healthy alternative to their drinks,” says Ashtyn Harris, one of Dirty Habit’s head bartenders.

In the house cocktail Can’t Beet Me, a base of thyme-infused beet juice is married with bourbon, elderflower liqueur and citrus-flavored vermouth. “Beet juice might not be the first thing that goes well with bourbon,” says Harris. “But enriched with thyme, it pairs really well with the spiciness of the bourbon.”

Another house specialty, Rosé Cheeks includes a reduction of fresh rosemary and cranberries to add aroma, flavor and a touch of color to a libation with a backbone of gin, raspberry brandy and dry rosé cider.

Don’t Be a Grinch is a colorful cocktail modeled after Boba Tea, a blend of brewed tea, sweetener, juices, fruits, and soft and chewy tapioca pearls, or boba. A Taiwanese import, Boba Tea is said to be a non-alcoholic coffeehouse drink favored by youthful consumers, similar to Thai tea and milk tea. But in this case, it’s an adult drink made with soy matcha tea, lemongrass syrup and persimmon spiked with ginger liqueur and green tea shochu, presented in a Collins glass with a wide straw for sipping the boba.


More and more restaurant and bar patrons who drink alcoholic beverages are opting for soft or reduced-alcohol beverages from time to time, especially when there are appealing options on the menu.

The international food and restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman describe this moderate behavior in their trend forecast for 2022 as “boozing”. They say it’s a reversal of the alcoholic indulgence that has increased among consumers during lockdown – fueled in part by post-COVID “more mindful eating and drinking” attitudes. “Interestingly, more than half of the people who drink the low-alcohol stuff alternate with hard drinks,” add Baum + Whiteman.

At Dirty Habit, Harris developed non-alcoholic signatures for patrons taking a break from hard stuff. One example is the popular Secret Garden, which combines non-alcoholic spirits with essences of peas, herbs and hops with simple basil-flavored syrup and lemon juice. It comes in a stylish Up glass with a partially sugared rim.

Another hit is Berry Spicy, a combination of muddled blackberries, lime juice and simple syrup on crushed ice, topped off with a drizzle of jalapeño water. The latter is made by soaking sliced ​​jalapeños in hot water and then blending and sieving the mixture. “It has a nice little kick,” says Harris, as well as a green hue that contrasts with the blackberry blend.

Harris advises operators producing zero-proof signatures to emphasize vibrant flavor profiles in the absence of alcohol. That’s a case for more experimentation at the bar with homemade concoctions as well as labor-saving syrups, purees and flavor concentrates.

In today’s challenging business climate, it’s important to seize business opportunities as they arise. The prospects for continued momentum in plant-based functional beverages, soft and non-alcoholic beverages and colorful tropical specialties appear bright.

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