Beverage Orders Fizzle at Foodservice Outlets

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. — Consumers order a beverage 70 percent of the time when visiting restaurants and other foodservice outlets, but it's not enough to stop a five-year decline in orders.

According to The NPD Group, beverage orders have dipped 4 percent  — or by 2 billion servings — over a five-year period driven by consumers' changing tastes and cost consciousness.

There are more growing beverages at restaurants in the last five years than declining beverages, but the declining ones like carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) are larger in servings volume, according to NPD’s Beverages at Foodservice: Satisfying our Thirst for Beverages report.

The report examines consumers' beverage choices, what and where they order, and the importance of variety in driving their decisions. 

Iced/frozen coffee, specialty coffee, tap water and bottled water top the list of growing beverages. Diet and regular CSDs, milk and brewed coffee have lost the most servings among the declining beverages. 

The growing beverages, like iced and specialty coffee, get a boost from the fact that consumers "love" these beverages and will make a special visit to get them. These drinks are also more likely to be ordered for a snack, according to the research firm.

Also driving the growing beverages, like tap water, is cost consciousness. The NPD report found that consumers will opt for tap water instead of buying a beverage, or visit another location in order to get a lower-priced beverage.

According to NPD, declining beverages like CSDs and milk account for nearly 50 percent of all beverages ordered at foodservice; however, they have lost 4 billion servings since 2010. Though declining beverages are down overall, they are purchased with the most frequency of all beverage categories — about two-thirds of these beverages are purchased at most or every foodservice visit. These beverages are typically ordered at dinner or lunch, the report stated.

"Despite recent declines in beverage servings, the fact is that beverages are still an important part of foodservice visits — whether by themselves or as part of a meal," said Warren Solochek, president of NPD's Foodservice Practice. "In order to drive beverage orders, foodservice operators will need to understand consumers’ changing tastes and offer an array of quality beverage choices, including healthy options."

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