The quick-serve sector is the only restaurant group showing significant sales growth this year. But that isn’t keep some operators from searching for new lines of revenue. Several quick-serve operators see promise in the adult beverage market and have begun testing the concept.
Late last year, Starbucks started the trend by adding new menu items to build dinner traffic. Since the coffee shops typically see most of their business before 2:00 p.m. every day, this strategy made sense. The company has begun to serve wine and beer after 4:00 p.m. in Seattle locations. In addition, Burger King and Sonic are also testing the concept at some of their locations.
The idea is to try to steal away some of the dinner business from popular fast-casual restaurants like Applebee’s and T.G.I. Friday's which offer adult beverages. Ron Paul, president of Technomic, notes that this practice has been popular in Europe for several years. Operators here will have to tread carefully to stay within legal boundaries. For one thing, consumers won’t be able to drive up to the take out window for a beer. They’ll need to consume the beverage on the premises.
But the market could be larger than just the dinner crowd. The Lempert report anticipates that quick-serve operators with adult beverage might appeal to the pre-club and post-club crowd – people who are looking for an inexpensive place to have a drink before or after going out.
Either way, it looks as though this market might be here to stay as restaurants look for every opportunity to raise revenue. And they’ll like be promoting this new line of business and may even eventually qualify for co-op and trade advertising support from beverage producers.[Sources: Horovitz, Bruce. Starbucks remakes its future. Usatoday.com. 22 Oct. 2010. Web. 4 Aug. 2011; Burger King now Serving Beer and Wine at Test Locations. TheFix.com. Web. 5 Aug. 2011; Lempert, Phil. Tapping the Pre-Club Crowd. 28 Jul. 2011. Web. 9 Aug. 2011]