February 13, 2024

Beverages are key to ringing up bigger sales

New research finds guests are bubbly about ordering drinks on or off premises.
Alcohol to-go

Our new research finds 93% of restaurants serving alcohol to go say they offer it with pick-up orders.

Demand for alcohol beverages in house and off premises, along with alcohol-focused events, such as wine tastings, clubs, and food/wine pairings, continue to garner popularity and grow sales, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry report.

As stated in the latest research, alcohol beverages are no longer the ‘sidekick’ on restaurant menus. Rather, if done right, they can match or even exceed food as a restaurant’s point of differentiation for consumers, Association experts say. 

Beverages can influence restaurant choices

In fact, 7 in 10 consumers who drink beer, wine or cocktails claim the availability of alcohol beverages would make them more likely to choose one restaurant over another, says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research & Knowledge. 

“These beverages can be a reason for customers to walk into a restaurant in the first place,” he says. “They’re not just something additional to sell with a meal.”

The new data also finds that 54% of fullservice operators who serve alcohol say they plan to add new mixed cocktail offerings in 2024, while 51% claim they will increase their beer selections and 48% intend to add more wine. 

Local offerings and alcohol to go are sales drivers

Locally sourced beverages, such as craft beers, are also popular among Gen Zs and millennials, as are alcohol-to-go selections. The report finds that among fullservice restaurants selling alcohol, roughly half include them in delivery orders and 96% say they'll continue to if permitted to do so in their jurisdictions. In addition, 93% of the restaurants serving alcohol to go say they offer it with pick-up orders, 1 in 4 send them with third-party delivery orders, and 1 in 10 arrange for their own staff to deliver them.

For operators who serve alcohol, beer is the most common alcohol beverage served with takeout or delivery orders, with 83% of them offering it. Wine by the bottle is available at 65% of fullservice restaurants that sell alcohol with takeout or delivery, and cocktails are at about 6 in 10 fullservice restaurants selling alcohol to go. 

Non-alcohol drinks make their mark, too

The research also finds that 39% of adult consumers would order non-alcohol versions of alcohol beverages if offered, with 36% of operators serving alcohol saying they plan to add non-alcohol cocktails, or “mocktails,” another 23% intending to serve more non-alcohol beers, and 8% adding non-alcohol wines to their beverage mix.

“There’s certainly a growing market for non-alcohol beverages, especially among younger age groups, like Gen Zs and millennials,” Riehle says. “For a variety of reasons, this is definitely developing into a longer-term trend.”

In addition, alcohol to go is a major development for certain restaurant operations, too. 

“The ability to include alcohol with some off-premises orders is rapidly gaining momentum,” he says. “and some quickservice operators are also now offering that option as well as various tableservice operators. That trend will certainly continue to grow in the years ahead.”

Download your copy of the 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry report!

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