The New Year Should Bring New Drinks

CocktailsWhat's new?

Along with the New Year, bar and nightclub operators are best advised this traditionally slow time of year to take a look back and decide how well your business works, and how to improve it.

In terms of beverages, there are always trends emerging, but not every type of establishment should try to take on every one. Cider, for instance: while this is a fast-growing and dynamic part of the beverage business, it seems best placed in beer-focused operations, rather than nightclubs or fine dining establishments. Craft spirits, too, are starting to emerge as an important niche on-premise, but, again, not for every venue or even region.

These mini-trends - whether we're talking about tea and coffee, juice and soda, beer, wine or spirits - reflect both the changing landscape of beverages provided by emerging entrepreneurs and giant corporations, and the evolving tastes of the American public. No operation that wants to stay current can afford to ignore them all; or, better put, if you do ignore them, you're leaving money on the table.

Who, for instance, gave a thought five years ago to coconut water? A favorite thirst-quencher for generations of Caribbeans, now the drink can be found in a multitude of package types in convenience stores, supermarkets, and it's even frequently found as an ingredient in craft cocktail bars.

So, back to the original question: what's new? What new beverage or drink style do you need to adopt in 2014? "None," by the way, is the wrong answer. Maybe you simply need to find a better coffee scheme to bolster your sagging sales in that area, or look for a way to make better adult non-alcohol beverages available, whether through in-house innovation or outside suppliers. Perhaps it's time to make that change in your approach to wine, shifting to a menu that changes a couple of times a year based on season and customer behavior, or include more ways for guests to order wine - by the carafe, half-carafe, small glass and sample taste.

Innovation in menus is essential at even the simplest diner and traditional restaurant, so ignoring the changes, both in terms of demographics and tastes that occur with American palates is foolish. Change is good, so make some, large or small, to your beverage program now when resolutions make sense and business is just a tad slower. Track them and tweak them, but do it now; or soon you'll be wondering how you missed that incremental income a trend can bring.

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