Chains drive interest with new renditions of ice-cold consumer favorites.
This article first appeared in the 1 July 2009 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. Visit the R&I website to find out more about the magazine or to search its recipe database.
By Kate Leahy, Senior Associate Editor
Lemonade, iced-coffee drinks and smoothies: When asked for their most successful recent menu additions, several Top 400 chains named one of these cool, nonalcoholic beverages. And why not? They're indulgent, affordable and easily adaptable. Here, how some chains are putting a signature spin on three popular beverages.
Lemonade is a must-have on any summer beverage menu. A few casual-dining chains are taking it to the next level, using interesting flavors and add-ins to lend value to the simple beverage (and refills are often free). Strawberry lemonade is a current flavor front-runner—and a kid favorite at Columbus, Ohio-based Charley's Grilled Subs—but it's only part of the story.
Peachy Keen Splash (pictured above)
Red Robin, Greenwood Village, Colo.
What's in it: A lemonade base is mixed with peach fruit flavor, diced peaches, lemon-lime soda and ice.
Selling point: Chunks of fresh peach emphasize the beverage's fruit-forward appeal. (Watermelon lemonade also is available through August.)
Buffalo Wild Wings, Minneapolis
What's in it: Lemonade mixed with huckleberry purée.
Selling point: Because out-of-the-ordinary huckleberry gives it an upscale flavor, some customers are choosing the beverage as an alternative to a cocktail.
ICED COFFEE DRINKS
This summer, Seattle-based Starbucks is putting its marketing dollars behind straightforward iced coffee rather than its blended Frappuccino drinks. Yet consumers still like their java on the indulgent side—crowned with whipped cream or blended with chocolate, for example. The reason, believes Corporate Executive Chef Philip Smith from Burlington, Vt.-based Bruegger's, is the drinks' “treat-ful element.”
Hand-Shaken ColdBrewed S'more Mocha
Seattle's Best Coffee, Seattle
What's in it: Concentrated cold-brewed coffee shaken with milk, chocolate and ice and topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, marshmallows and a graham cracker.
Selling point: This new beverage seeks to expand on the chain's JavaKula, an iced mocha introduced last year that also uses cold-brewed coffee as a base.
Bruegger's, Burlington, Vt.
What's in it: Coffee brewed three times stronger than usual is blended with a creamy vanilla smoothie base and ice (a mocha variation, shown, is new this summer).
Selling point: Even though the drink is sweet, it appeals to coffee aficionados. “It tastes like an adult coffee,” says Smith.
The beverage category's popularity has spread well beyond smoothie-centric concepts. Even Irvine, Calif.-based Taco Bell offers smoothies (in flavors such as mango-strawberry). As the ingredients get more creative, though, smoothies still fall into two main categories: healthful, for those looking for function as well as flavor, and indulgent, for those seeking just a cool, refreshing treat.
Hard Rock Cafe, Orlando, Fla.
What's in it: Piña-colada mix, orange juice, banana, ice, and a purée of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries.
Selling point: Part of the chain's “Alt Rock” selection of mocktails, this smoothie has the appeal of a blended cocktail without the alcohol.
Kiwi-Citrus Green Tea Smoothie
Tropical Smoothie Café, Destin, Fla.
What's in it: Matcha (powdered green tea), kiwi, oranges, yogurt, turbinado sugar and water.
Selling point: “It has a distinct tea flavor,” says Mike Rotondo, vice president of operations, making the smoothie a good fit given the company's renewed focus on tea and coffee offerings.