Millennials drive restaurant drink trends

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Several full-service and fast-casual chains have moved recently to capitalize on popular beverage trends resulting from demand from Millennials, either through happy-hour promotions or expansions of bar offerings.

Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion, for example, runs a happy hour from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. where the appetizers, wines and island-theme mixed drinks all revolve around the $5 price point. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro keeps several of its signature cocktails, like the Dragon Martini, around $6.

For several high-end steakhouses, driving traffic to the bar was a way to salvage sales during the recession, when typical business-account dining was pared back severely. Even in the recovery environment, however, several of these restaurants still emphasize their bars, particularly as a way to lure younger diners like Millennials.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s Sizzle, Swizzle & Swirl Happy Hour program, for example, offers several new cocktails for $7. Morton’s The Steakhouse has remodeled several restaurants the past few years to include a Bar 12-21, which offers new cocktails, craft beers and a Bar Bites menu for much lower price points than its standard dining room menu. The chain also introduced Spatini low-calorie cocktails last year.

Casual dinnerhouses have also announced plans to build more alcohol sales. This can be seen in initiatives such as the one at Chili’s Grill & Bar to increase bar team training and introduce new drinks and marketing and the hiring of master mixologist Donna Ruch at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. And as part of its new Please Let Us Serve format being tested in five locations, Noodles & Co. is expanding its craft beer and wine selection.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s also will look to offer more craft beers and wine, but much of those incremental offerings would take place at its newly acquired Brass Tap concept, which has three locations currently. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s plans to open three franchised locations of Brass Tap by the first quarter of 2013.

The "Special Trends in Adult Beverage (TAB) Report: Millennial Consumer Insights," is based on a survey of 2,000 consumers and is part of the Technomic adult beverage database.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN