Four Trends Operators Should Consider in 2018

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Four trends you need to consider as the new year dawns.

It’s time to think about what 2018 will bring. For people in charge of bar and restaurant beverages, it’s a good time to think about how trends will affect your business. Here, then, are four trends worth thinking about as you consider your beverage menus.

1. Rosé and sparkling wines: Every day, every season fare.

People laughed when they first heard about “brosés,” groups of men who got together for après work rosé wine quaffing in many cities. But rosés from every country have continued to grow in double-digit figures, while some producers are selling out earlier each year. Others, notably Spanish Cava producers, are ramping up production just to take advantage of an unusually American market. Alsatian wine producer Dopff & Irion says that recent developments have created a boomlet for the pink crémant sparkling wine.

“It’s really amazing—in lots of the countries where we sell the rosé, it is mainly bought and consumed by women, but in the U.S., a lot of men also are drinking it,” says Frédéric Raynaud, general director and CEO. “We started from zero five years ago and last year doubled the sales without doing anything.”

Other sparkling producers are finding that American consumers are finally willing to have a glass of bubbly anytime, and while brunch is still a big driver, operators with solid by-the-glass offerings are also seeing good growth.

2. Mezcal boom—or bust?

Championed by agave geeks and cocktail creators, mezcal’s rough reputation has been tamed in many quarters. Production skills have been brought to bear that moderate the rustic assertiveness many mezcal’s once possessed. But prices are high and going higher, quantities are still rather limited, and there aren’t many signs that tequila’s older sister is ready to break out into the mass market. Mezcal still benefits from the powerful growth of tequila and interest in authentic and farm-to-table spirits, but be careful about plunging into the agave pool too deeply without a well-conceived plan to bring the average consumer along. Mezcal is a perfect case of how sometimes industry enthusiasm can get too far ahead of consumer demand, and the last thing Mexican producers need is another boom-and-bust cycle.

3. Cocktail price ceiling.

Remember when the $12 cocktail seemed like a step too far? Not anymore. Not when even many chain restaurants offer top shelf cocktails at or above that price tier. Today’s customers have been described as having no price resistance, but too many cocktails are priced with competitors rather than customers in mind. This is to say nothing of the numerous indifferently shaken and stirred drinks that resemble only in concept and ingredients high quality cocktails. Customers will be turned off and disengage if they splurge on a drink which elicits nothing more than a shoulder shrug.

Better to price cocktails on a tiered basis, so that simple and easy libations cost less than their complicated counterparts, and guests can vote with their dollars. High-price, high-percentage drinks may look good when being menued, but dollars, a wise man once said, not percentages are what go to the bank.

4. What’s beer’s future?

It’s not a great time to depend on beer sales on-premise, as numerous reports continue to indicate that the most profitable beverage ounce-by-ounce is in nearly full retreat. Sure, craft IPAs have proven to be a lifesaver, and discounting can be expected as big brewers who have bought craft brands look to dominate tap handles and menus. But the traditional mode of doing business—stock the popular brands and sell for a premium —isn’t working with beer anymore.

Carrying local beers, particularly their limited release and seasonal offerings, seems to help in many quarters, but that doesn’t solve the presentation problem afflicting beer currently. Let’s face it, most wine and cocktail service in bars and restaurants makes beer service look as sophisticated as watering the cattle. Upgrade glassware, service and selection, educate servers, connect with food, and promote what’s special. These are the steps needed to solve beer’s problem on-premise.