While hotel guests still enjoy their traditional happy hour drinks, the growing trend of non-alcoholic mocktails is offering up clever concoctions that still make nice profits for F&B departments.
GLOBAL REPORT—Creative, non-alcoholic drink concoctions, called mocktails, are a growing and profitable trend at hotel food-and-beverage outlets.
Driving the trend are business travelers, and “to some degree … millennials, who want to relax and have more than one drink when on business,” said Ken Taylor, VP of strategic development at hospitality F&B agency MarkeTeam Inc.
“You are also seeing more family-oriented mocktails and smoothies requested from leisure travelers on vacation and group business guests who want a healthy mid-morning drink when on a break from meetings.”
The profit margin on smoothies is a whopping 70%, Taylor added. And though the price is lower on alcohol-free mixed drinks, the ingredients are also cheaper, resulting in a similar profit margin to drinks made with liquor.
Hotels that cater kids’ parties are also having success with mocktails, said Monika Henry, GM of the 402-room Crowne Plaza Hotel White Plains in White Plains, New York.
“Kids want to have these drinks that are fun and feel adult-y,” Henry said. “And, they don’t expect to pay $2 for a specially-made, non-alcoholic drink; they will pay $6 to $7 if the drink is creative and presented the right way.”
Guests still want the experience of a great mixologist behind the bar, and are looking for healthy organic drinks that are made-to-order, Jonathan Wilson, VP of customer experience and innovation at Hilton Hotels & Resorts, said.
Some popular requests include fresh-pressed juices and drinks infused with lavender or chili peppers for an extra “kick” and more strong flavors, he said. Some mixed beverages include ice cubes made from frozen cucumber water.
“You can sell more drinks, and it is more responsible to have a bartender encourage customers to try something new that doesn’t have alcohol in it,” Wilson said. “Then you can sell some healthy small plates to go along with these healthier drinks.”
Serving liquor-free libations also helps a hotel to be more inclusive with guests, sources said.
“Not everyone is a drinker. But when you offer guests something cool without alcohol that has a local flair, some complexity, and is creative, then everyone can be included and be part of the group,” said Ben Rouse, head bartender at the 180-room Kimpton Aertson Hotel and its 130-seat Henley restaurant, located in Nashville.
And, with a cost of maybe just under 50 cents to make an original and unique liquor-free beverage, versus up to $2.50 for an alcoholic drink, the profit margin for F&B departments is as appealing as the concoctions themselves, Rouse added.
“You are cutting out the most expensive ingredient, which is alcohol, so even though you may charge $8, versus $14 for an alcoholic drink, you will still make money. And you get to serve everyone, from kids to families to groups,” said Blake Mathias, food and beverage manager at the Huntington Beach, California, Kimpton Shorebreak Resort and its restaurant, Pacific Hideaway. The hotel has 157 guestrooms, and the restaurant seats 110.
Greg Griffie, SVP of food and beverage at Atlanta-based Davidson Hotels & Resorts, said he has seen a growing trend of less-sugary, non-alcoholic drinks made with ingredients such as coconut water, house-made jams and preserves, infused teas, lemon juice and orange blossom water. Some of these specialty creations will cost $6 to $8 each, versus $12 for an alcoholic cocktail or about $3 for bottled water.
“We can upsell these healthy, refreshing drinks,” Griffie said. “I see this trend growing and continuing.”
The mocktails craze is flowing overseas as well.
The 229-room St. Regis Bangkok offers a hot tea blend with fresh hibiscus and pomegranate alongside a concoction of fresh beetroot, apple, blueberry and a sprinkling of sugar, Carl Chapman, the hotel’s F&B director, said.
There are a number of occasions during the year that alcohol is prohibited, and at these times, the hotel highlights its mocktails, he said.
Other specialty drinks include a Park Lane, which features celery, cranberry juice, lime juice, elderflower syrup, soda water; and a Citrus Garden, which consists of fresh orange juice, apple juice, mandarin purée, fresh lemon juice and homemade rosemary sugar syrup.
These drinks have helped drive loyalty and repeat business with guests, while developing new experiences, which leads to greater incremental revenue, Chapman said.
“What is fantastic is our guests are more interested in what they consume and how cocktails are created, many opting to take recipes home and try them out for themselves,” Chapman said. “We encourage guests to join us for master classes where our team engages with the guests, talking through their steps.”