Energize your beverage menu.

The beverage menu has long been a prime area to increase margins and ticket sizes. Drinks can also be a great differentiator for brands looking to win brand loyalty at a time when that is increasingly pivotal—if diners are eating out less due to worsening economic conditions, then it is all the more critical to find ways to lure them out. And, just as food that is challenging to make at home will always be popular at restaurants, beverages that cannot easily be found on the shelf at the grocery store can lead to increased foot traffic. 

So what type of drinks are consumers looking for? While soda consumption at restaurants has been declining for years, a renewed focus on innovative, functional beverages has taken center stage—for instance, energy drinks. According to Chicago-based Mintel, “the energy drink category is a strong performer within the wider non-alcoholic beverage industry, outpacing growth in other beverages.” 

“Consumers, especially those aged 18 through 34, are always wanting to try new items,” says Emily Hirsch, vice president of beverages at Botrista Beverages. “The increasing demand for energy drinks is a good example of what those types of consumers are looking for.” 

However, expanding the beverage menu to new categories is challenging for restaurant operators as they continue to face labor shortages. A recent report from the National Restaurant Association stated that nearly 80 percent of operators do not have enough employees to match demand. That can weigh heavily on a beverage program—when not executed well or consistently, drinks suffer greatly. 

“Developing great drinks to delight their customers—and drive revenue—is desirable, but not easy to execute,” says Jason Valentine, chief strategy officer at Botrista Beverages. “Industry labor participation is not back up to pre-pandemic levels, so staffing takes priority over investing in beverage innovation.”

“Developing great drinks to delight their customers—and drive revenue—is desirable, but not easy to execute.”

Perhaps this is why, according to a recent Datassential survey, 63 percent of operators plan to keep their beverage menus the same, while only 8 percent saw the non-alcoholic beverage space as a place where they could innovate. This makes non-alcoholic beverages a clear place where brands could create differentiation—if and when they have the solutions to do so. 

In many ways, the solutions created by Botrista Beverages are primed to help operators meet the moment. CEO and co-founder Sean Hsu started Botrista Beverages with the goal of creating an automated way for operators to add a craft beverage menu that would enhance speed of service while not sacrificing on quality.

The concept was born when Hsu noticed this market inefficiency while working at a cafe: While drinks were a key part of the restaurant experience, they often backed up the line to the point where guests would just settle for water. Hsu began to wonder what would be the best way to simplify the process of creating complex drinks and implementing them at any restaurant that could use it. Later on, using his background in robotics combined with experience creating automated liquid dispensing systems at Tesla, Hsu spent years researching a solution that would become the Botrista Beverages DrinkBot. 

Using a bag-in-box (BiB) system, the DrinkBot can process syrups 1,000 times thicker than a traditional drink fountain to churn out a wide variety of high-quality beverages in under 20 seconds. The DrinkBot was built with the operator in mind and, for a number of reasons, is becoming increasingly popular with some of the most cutting-edge quick-service brands. 

“The machine requires little-to-no training,” Hsu says. “It has a sleek touchscreen interface that requires the team member to simply follow on-screen prompts. You suddenly have automated, barista-quality drinks.” 

Liz Solomon Dwyer

The DrinkBot is the first automated energy drink dispenser and helps brands elevate their drink offerings. Botrista Beverages has dozens of energy options that contain natural ingredients— coffeeberry, ginseng, ashwagandha, guarana, and green coffee, to name a few. These are great examples of how the DrinkBot thrives in helping operators make the aforementioned pivot toward functional beverages. The DrinkBot goes beyond energy drinks, too, dispensing other functional beverages from categories that include iced tea, lemonade, agua fresca, mocktail, smoothie, and iced coffee.

Andrew Eck, vice president of marketing at The Halal Guys, says implementing the DrinkBot has increased both efficiency and profitability. The brand has been able to offer signature drinks and LTOs it may not have been able to execute previously. 

“We offer flavored iced teas and lemonades, which our guests love,” Eck says. “This past spring, we offered watermelon lemonade as an LTO, and it was a big hit. Our average check size has increased by 17 percent since implementing the new offerings.” 

[float_image image=”https://www.qsrmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Mici.jpg” width=”30″ link=”” caption=”” alt=”Mici Handcrafted Italian” align=”left” /]

Something else operators love about the DrinkBot is its size—the DrinkBot Pro takes up about the same amount of space as a beverage fountain and contains refrigerated space for up to 12 BiB containers of syrup. The DrinkBot Mini has a smaller footprint, but can still fit up to 8 BiBs. 

Iva Chen, who runs a Goldilocks Filipino Cuisine location at SFO Airport, south of San Francisco, was immediately taken with the DrinkBot when she saw it at a trade show. The machine’s footprint, combined with its contributions to speed of service, made it a perfect fit for an airport location. 

“As soon as I saw a demo of the DrinkBot at a food show, I knew we needed to have it at our quick-service restaurant,” Chen says. “It’s been a great addition to our menu—we are now able to offer customized craft beverages made in under 20 seconds for our customers, who are always in a rush.” 

These operators are experiencing the solution to the issue Hsu set out to solve when he conceived of Botrista Beverages in the first place. That’s not lost on Hsu, who says his company is constantly innovating to help its customers meet shifting market demands. 

“Our flexibility in drink formats and equipment is expanding to meet operators’ menu needs,” Hsu says. “We strive to continuously improve and meet our customers’ goals, so that they can meet their guests’ goals.” 

For more on adding craft beverages to the menu, visit botrista.co.

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