Monday, October 19, 2015

Rant: People Are Drinking Less

Every time we dine out, we are faced with the same decision. What beverage, if any, should we order? Let's eliminate alcohol from the equation and consider only nonalcoholic beverages. Do you prefer a carbonated soda, a tall glass of iced tea, or simple tap water? What influences your decision in this regard? Do you have multiple glasses of your chosen beverage during your meal? These are probably decisions you don't think much about, directed more by habit than conscious choice.

However, at restaurants and other food service outlets, people are drinking less, or at least less nonalcoholic beverages. According to a new report from the NPD, a company which analyzes consumers spending, about 70% of these consumers order something to drink but their beverage orders have decreased by about 4% in the last five years, a reduction of approximately 2 billion servings. Why is that so?

The two most popular beverages are soda and milk, accounting for almost 50% of all drink orders, though their popularity has been decreasing and they lost about 4 billion servings in the last five years. Time for more milk commercials? Other beverages, including iced & frozen coffee, specialty coffee, frozen slush drinks, and tap & bottled water, have been seeing increased consumption. In some respects, soda and milk are ordered out of habit, with little thought into the choice though that habit has been changing.

One of the reasons for the changes in drink consumption is due to price, especially the increased ordering of tap water. Why spend $3.00 for a single glass of soda when you can get water for free? Restaurants which offer free refills of beverages tend to sell more of those beverages as they offer value to consumers. This is why a number of fast food restaurants have installed pour-your-own drink machines, trying to offer more value to their customers. Have you ever drank tap water instead of purchasing a drink at a restaurant because of cost issues?

I know I have done so. When I order nonalcoholic drinks, I tend to choose fresh-brewed, unsweetened iced tea. And I am much more likely to order it if they offer free refills. As I can easily drink 3 or 4 glasses during a meal, it can be costly if they don't offer free refills.

In addition, consumer tastes have changed over the years and they have been seeking out different drink options, like specialty coffees. Now only are they ordering them with their food, but they also are ordering them as snacks, instead of food. For others, they are choosing more healthy options, understanding that sugary sodas aren't a healthy choice. Restaurants need to pay attention to these changes unless they want to lose beverage sales.

What nonalcoholic beverages do you order when dining out?

1 comment:

Susan Holaday said...

Coffee and ice tea, sometimes club soda with a lemon twist.