Turn Water Orders Into Tea Sales
Quickly Gain More Profitability from Your Menu
When asked to examine your menu’s profitability, you would be forgiven if you let out a heavy sigh and thought, “Here we go again…” Checking the web, you’ll find tons of ways to maximize potential profits from your restaurant’s menus, and you’re flooded by articles with subjects such as “menu engineering,” “5 things you need to know to unlock your menu’s potential,” or “menu mix percentage formula.” All have their value and serve a purpose but may require more of a time commitment than you’re ready for. Today we’d like to focus on one simple area that is easily overlooked, your drink menu.
A Flood of Water Orders
Take a look at your beverage sales over the last few years. We’re predicting you’ve seen a decrease in traditional drink orders and an uptick in water orders. Across the category, tap water servings have increased by 28 million servings since 2006.1 Part of the increase in water orders can be blamed on the difficult economic times from which we’re only recently emerging, but another significant portion can be attributed to the growing concern over calorie consumption. However, “Not all beverages are on the decline. New flavors, addressing taste interests, preparing fresh/freshly made, and creating new versions of existing beverages are factors in the beverages that are growing,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst1.
Revenue Dripping Away
Losing revenue to water orders presents mixed emotions to industry players. Yes, it’s good to have customers dining out again and being mindful of their caloric choices, but for each water order there is lost revenue. Of course the actual cost of the water is negligible, but the potential revenue loss adds up fast. If you were able to convert X number of water orders per day to tea orders with an average profit of Y, you can start to imagine how much you could increase sales per week, month, and year. Check to see if your tea supplier has a profit calculator you can use to get a more fine-tuned number. Here’s a good example from Lipton to get you started. Simply fill in a few numbers and costs and you can see how high profits can go. Use best guesses if you’re unsure of actual figures.
Flavorful & Healthy
Something to keep in mind is the desire of customers to customize their selections. Tea completely delivers on this need. Not only is a guest able to adjust the flavor through garnishes (lemons, limes, cherries, etc.), he or she is also able to regulate the calories through on-table sweeteners. The number of nutritional marketing claims on menus has shown significant growth, up 30.8% from 2009 to 2012.2 It’s worth remembering that most sugar packets contain only 15 calories (a 12-ounce cola contains 140 calories). So even if a patron used 4 packets of sugar in their tea they’d still be consuming fewer than half the calories in a traditional cola. And of course there are the standby zero-calorie sweeteners as well as new, natural options such as stevia. “Sugar-free” is the most popular nutritional claim.2
Aside from on-table options, tea is also the perfect platform for you to customize back of house. Syrups from your coffee program can also work in your hot and iced tea choices. Typically a fourth of an ounce to 1 ounce of flavoring is needed for a serving, and you can easily scale that number for larger batches. Consider creating custom flavor combinations to pair with your daily specials. There’s a plethora of easy-to-mix recipes online or contact your tea supplier for recommendations. Or challenge your culinary team to come up with an ownable recipe that will help distinguish your establishment from the competition.
In addition to being infinitely customizable, promoting your tea offerings also gives you the means to keep up with current trends your customers are looking for. How many times have you seen “fresh” come up on menu trend reports? Few things embody how fresh looks and tastes like a glass of brewed iced tea with a lemon slice as garnish or with berries floating amongst the ice. It’s a similar concept with sustainability. Some of the top tea manufacturers have partnered with the Rainforest Alliance to ensure sustainable planting and harvesting practices are in use. Promoting that fact on your menus can strike a chord with your patrons.
Table tents, front-of-house messaging, and other tactics can be used to remind patrons that they have control over where they spend their calories. Having better informed customers also dovetails into increased likelihood of them choosing to spend the calories they saved on their beverage choice on more food selections, primarily appetizers or desserts.
It All Adds Up to Increased Profitability
So now it’s up to you and your staff to use the resources and partnerships available to make the push to stop losing beverage sales to water. Consider incentivizing your employees, enhancing your menus, or adding FOH branding to help promote your beverage menu. Start tracking now to see just how big the potential is!
1 NPD, Beverages at Foodservice: Satisfying Our Thirst for Beverages, 2011.
2 Mintel’s Tea & Coffee Report 2012