Approximately one-fifth (21 percent) of consumers today say that beverages play a very important role in deciding which restaurants to visit for meals, according to Technomic Inc., Chicago. This has risen 5 percentage points from 16 percent of consumers in 2012 and is primarily driven by consumers between the ages of 18 and 44 who tend to use beverages for a wide variety of occasions, including snacks and social visits, the market research firm reports.

In order to maximize potential beverage occasions, operators are promoting off-peak dining hours and launching innovative, custom beverages that get people in the door. Consumer demand for variety and customization will lead to even more innovation in terms of beverage type and flavor, and an increasing focus on health and natural ingredients will inspire drink development, Technomic notes.  

"Operators must focus on increased consumer demand for variety and health when they are developing or revamping their beverage menus," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic Inc., in a statement. "Restaurants with strong beverage programs can play into health and variety by offering customization options for core drinks."

To further demonstrate the latest consumer behaviors, preferences and attitudes regarding non-alcohol beverages at foodservice establishments, Technomic published an update of its “Beverage Consumer Trend Report.”

According to the updated report, fast-food restaurants are outpacing other foodservice segments, with 89 percent of consumers purchasing food and/or a beverage from fast-food restaurants in the past month. In parallel with this trend, consumers seek convenience and speed when purchasing beverages at restaurants. Forty-four percent say they are more likely to visit restaurants with a drive-through for beverage-only occasions, the report states. However, 40 percent of consumers strongly agree that fast-food restaurants should offer greater beverage variety. Similarly, 46 percent strongly agree that full-service restaurants should offer greater beverage variety, up 4 percentage points from 2010.

Additionally, the number of consumers who call for healthier beverages at restaurants increased 5 percentage points from 39 percent in 2012 to 44 percent today.

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