Cheers to the latest trends and insights. ?

Some would call it exciting, others a little unsettling.  But, no doubt about it, there is a lot of change in our business right now:  acquisitions, chains for sale, CEO changeovers, and more!  It could be enough to make you want a beverage!  Instead, take a 5 minute break, and drink up  these latest trends and insights gained from the 2017 VIBE (Beverage) & International Franchise Association (IFA) Conferences:


Many of you know that the VIBE conference is a favorite of mine – it’s two days dedicated to Beverage, an ever-important and transforming segment in our industry! VIBE is a fantastic conference for marketing and R&D folks, and here are a few “Quick Hit” takeaways from this year’s great event that can help you today:

➡️ 52% of Millennials say adult beverages play an important role in their destination decision. Comparing this to the average of 37% for all consumers, this is significant.

Here’s what they’re drinking:

▪︎ Beer                          Crafts, premium domestics, imports, cider

▪︎ Wine                        Red blends, pinot noir, sparkling wine, moscato

▪︎ Spirits                      Vodka, whiskeys, aged spirits, cordials/liqueurs

(Source: Technomic)

VIBE Beverages

➡️ Mike Ginley, publisher of the Beverage Authority, shared his Q1 2017 research on 1100 U.S. consumers who purchased alcohol in the past 30 days at a national chain. A few noteworthy facts:

  • No Trade Down: 91% are ordering the same or higher quality drinks.
  • On the Spot: 86% make their drink decision after arrival. Only 14% in advance.
  • Ride-Share: 38% using (56% among Millennials). These people order +1additional drink compared to those who are driving.  So, ride-share à good for business, and good for safer roads!
  • No Tricks: 83% want to know the exact price of their beverage. This has implications for drink menus and happy hour, and goes back to the transparency theme I shared earlier.
  • Why Not?: Every month, half of beer/wine drinkers try a new brand

➡️ Beverage master David Commer (Commer Beverage) held his annual “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down” with a panel of high level operators

  • What’s Up? – Brown goods/whiskeys, Tiki, Sharable, Craft beer, Rose and Over-the-Top presentations.
  • David says that Moscato is on track to pass Riesling and White Zin. Sweet wine is where it’s at!
  • Lookout Starbucks… Disney, Landry’s and Del Frisco all said they are prepping to launch Cold Brew Coffee.

Finally, Mellow Mushroom for being awarded the Best Drink Menu in our business. Congrats to the entire MM Team! I love it when marketers “go for it” and offer something innovative and perfectly aligned with their brand.  Here – MM was thinking about their operators –  allowing for simple changes/updates, local customization (i.e. beers and state) –  while still reinforcing their brand’s heritage (born in 1974).

Mellow Mushroom

In sum, beverage has come a LONG way.  Focusing on your beverage program is now more important than in the past. No longer can the focus just be on the food. How important is BEVERAGE in your marketing and innovation plans?


➡️ Known as the “customer service expert,” Shep Hyken is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author who evangelizes the importance of customer service through credibility, trust and confidence. Shep believes that all consumers are looking for is a consistent, predictable, above-average experience. Not necessarily a mind-blowing service.  When this gets delivered – he calls it a “moment of magic!” Too often, though, guests get a “moment of mediocrity,” an average visit.  Even a “moment of misery” is preferable, because this gives us a chance to make it right.

Think about where you, yourself, go most often.  Isn’t consistency and above-average service the main reasons you go there?  I think that the focus of consistency is wise, and ones that are actionable today for all of us.  So remember, guests are not asking for “over the top” service; think about what you can do, within your brand, that can be delivered every shift, every day.

➡️ Global Trends expert Daniel Levine spoke about three current trends that relate to our industry:

  1. StopwatchNeed for Speed – Everyone today wants things faster and simpler! Amazon now has a “mayday” button where you can get help in 7.8 seconds. Is part of the growth in restaurant off-premise just a desire to skip the experience and save time for other higher priorities – such as sports/activities, work or binge-watching?
  2. Smarter (and smarter) Tech – When he polled the audience, an estimated 25% already have an Amazon Echo or a Google Home. Albeit the latest “toy”, it shows that consumers want the latest/greatest. He predicted it would be 50% by early next year.
  3. Crisis of Trust – Consumers have been shaken on their trust of organizations, government, and big business overall. To combat this, Levine suggested a heightened need for brands to be more transparent, honest and human in their interactions. As I’ve said before “tell your story” and be real.

Our industry has to deal with these larger environmental trends. Changes in our business seem to be happening more rapidly than ever. How are you addressing?

For nearly fifteen years, Growth Partners, LLC has provided outsourced Chief Marketing Officer consulting to restaurant companies. I am a fresh set of eyes for current CMOs, as well as an Interim or Part-Time CMO for concepts looking to grow their businesses and brands. Contact Neil today to learn more.