While the New Year emphasizes resolutions that revolve around healthy lifestyles, it also puts nightclubs and bars on notice. How can owners cater to customers seeking healthier alternatives?
First, owners need to review and update their offerings, looking for healthier products for signature drinks. Kathy Casey, president of Liquid Kitchen, is no stranger to “skinny” cocktails. Working with her H2O cocktails, which are water based, and mixing those with spirits and a sugar-free product offer a lighter but still delicious way to drink, she says.
Trends show that patrons are getting away from sweeter drinks, opting for dryer, healthier styles. Adding a bubbly soda, cucumber or fruit-infused water “takes the calories out and makes it lighter and refreshing,” states Casey. But developing healthier drinks really isn’t as simple as substituting one ingredient for another. It takes time to development the drinks, and it may make sense to hire someone who knows what they’re doing.
“You can’t toss ingredients together,” Casey explains. “You don’t want to overdo it with sugar-free syrups.”
Some challenges owners might face when creating healthier cocktails is focusing too much on calorie count. Sometimes it can seem like lowering calorie count from 600 to 300 calories is a big decrease, but it’s not. Casey considers a healthy drink to have 150 calories or fewer.
While developing the drinks may take some time, it’s the staff that really needs to get behind the healthy-drink push. Bartenders who are making light drinks need to also have a light hand. “Staff needs to be well-trained on making [the drinks], and that they are measured accurately,” Casey says. “If it is an ounce of spirit, then it really is and it’s jiggered correctly.”
Wording also matters. Casey hesitates to use the word “skinny” to describe healthy drink options. “It’s gotten a bad rap,” she says, adding it’s a polarizing term that scares patrons away. When it comes to naming, Casey credits The Cheesecake Factory for its “SkinnyLicious” menu. The name “reads great,” and “it’s fun and different,” she says.
To market the healthy alternatives, Casey says to not only place them on the dinner menu but also the lunch menu, highlighting a few options that are both alcohol and alcohol-free. The drinks should “sound fresh and fit your particular concept,” she says.
Overall, owners should have one or two items on the menu. Not everyone will order these drinks, but they will be happy to see it on the menu. “People want to know they’re out there,” she says. “People may not order them, but they like that they’re there. And the ones that do order them are grateful for it.
“It’s nice to have an alternative for somebody,” she adds.
Additionally, the skinny options are better for profit margins because there are not as many expensive ingredients that go into making the drinks. Using fresh fruit juices, infused water and a small amount of high-quality, sugar-free syrup, “can be pretty cost effective,” Casey says.
Being healthier is “part of daily life” now and owners should take advantage of that.