The pivot to off-premises has lowered ticket sizes and margins. Here’s how to fix that.

The pandemic has led to a turbulent pivot to off-premises ordering, with quick-serve brands scrambling to find the optimal formula that will lead to profitability. Even when brands have implemented technology and ordering solutions that make to-go and delivery channels seamless for guests, many are finding that ticket sizes are down because consumers are skipping out on add-ons, like beverages.

There are a couple of possible reasons for this. For one, if a consumer is ordering from their phone, they might never see the beverages if the format obscures those options. Another reason for diners skipping out on beverages is because the grocery store is winning that battle—why would a diner pay up for a drink that they already have in the fridge?

“Beverages are high-margin items that operators need to be selling to remain profitable,” says Jean-Marc Rotsaert, CEO of Sun Orchard. “But if consumers know they can get the same beverage at a grocery store for half the price, they’re going to do that nine times out of ten.”

The key, Rotsaert says, is to build a beverage menu that stands out, offers the customer bang for his or her buck, and has options that are convenient to purchase and carry out of the store. Sun Orchard has been partnering with operators to ensure all of those boxes are checked. Here’s how it works: operators buy condensed offerings that contain all the ingredients of the finished beverage, minus water. They also purchase containers from Sun Orchard that can be filled in-house by the brand’s employees, thus cutting out the logistics costs of shipping water. The packaging is ideal for to-go or delivery orders—sturdy and unlikely to spill or leak during the off-premises journey.

“Sun Orchard’s lineup of innovative beverage solutions end up costing the brand 2 or 3 cents per ounce ” Rotsaert says. “And now you’re making multiple dollars per container sold. Additionally, there’s still perceived value for the customer that will make them want to buy a beverage from your restaurant instead of the supermarket down the street.”

Two final areas that the Sun Orchard team believe are paramount for brands offering a beverage program in an era when off-premises ordering makes up the majority of their transactions: The beverages must match a brand’s identity, and, of course, they must deliver on flavor. Sun Orchard offers a lineup of juices, teas, lemonades, and cocktail mixers that can be tailored to match a brand’s image.

“One of the things brands have to be conscious of is that if they want to emphasize all-natural ingredients, or offer a health and wellness slant with their food, their beverage program must match that identity,” Rotsaert says. “People are still craving food from restaurants, and those sales are beginning to pick back up. If you create craveable beverages with attractive price or value propositions, the sales will follow.”

For more on how to create a modern beverage program, visit Sun Orchard’s website

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