It was the only treat during the pandemic shutdowns. When all sense of normality was suspended and restaurants were forced to offer takeout only, “alcohol to go” orders became a special perk for those ordering.
But with everything now back to normal, it looks like such orders are now serving to fatten restaurant bottom lines, as they have become a reliable way to grow businesses in the food industry from a tactic of survival to a mainstay menu.
A new report published by the The National Restaurant Association suggests that the “Alcohol to go” section of takeout orders was the only section of the menu that was able to continuously innovate to meet consumer demand, demonstrating how restaurants managed to adapt to the new work-life balance and simplicity.
Alcohol to go presents new sales opportunities and an additional revenue stream, with over 64% of wine drinkers requesting the ability to include wine by the bottle in their takeout or delivery orders.
During pandemic shutdowns, take-out liquor orders have become a cherished indulgence when all semblance of normality has disappeared
A bartender sells a frozen margarita to go to a customer in the Bushwick neighborhood in April 2020 in New York
The majority of states across the country allow the sale of alcohol in take-out orders
Many states have now allowed liquor orders to continue on a permanent basis
A graph showing the percentage of diners who say the alcohol choice on offer would make them choose one restaurant over another
Changes to liquor laws during the pandemic have allowed restaurants to serve alcohol beyond their own four walls.
In many states, on-the-go alcohol continues, with operators now looking to build a beverage menu that complements their food products and thus drives post-pandemic growth.
Many younger diners are interested in pairing a craft beer, glass of wine, or a restaurant’s signature cocktail with their meal, both dine-in and take-out.
The report shows that Gen Z adults (those up to 26) are at the top of the ordering pipeline, with 44% including alcoholic beverages in their takeout or delivery orders in the past six months . The group is slightly ahead of Generation Y (25 to 40 years old), Generation X (43 to 58 years old) and Baby Boomers (57 to 75 years old).
Beer remains the most popular beverage choice among restaurants and their customers, but red wine is gaining momentum with nearly 65% of wine drinkers choosing to include it in their takeout orders. Red wine is closely followed by white, rosé and sparkling options.
Margaritas, especially personalized ones, are also booming when it comes to cocktails.
“We sell a lot of frozen drinks, big homemade margaritas and all kinds of cocktails, but the Mambo Taxi generates 95% of our liquor sales,” said Edgar Guevara of the Mi Cocina restaurant in Dallas.
“When the pandemic happened, we thought about how we could sell our drinks to go, and as soon as the governor announced that we could sell cocktails to go, we found a way to serve them frozen, in mini-divided containers with an alcohol-free mix on the side, people could pick them up, fix them themselves, and enjoy them at home.
Blanca Aldaco, owner of Aldaco’s Mexican Kitchen in San Antonio, says to-go cocktails were a way to provide the food and drink consumers needed during the pandemic but couldn’t consume inside the restaurant
Restaurant owners across the country have found ways to increase sales while only being allowed to operate as a take-out business. Pictured is Ryan Fletter at the Barolo Grill in Denver. On the right, Edgar Guevara of the Mi Cocina restaurant in Dallas
Blanca Aldaco, owner of Aldaco’s Mexican Kitchen in San Antonio, says to-go cocktails were a way to provide the food and drink consumers needed during the pandemic but couldn’t consume inside the restaurant.
‘It really changed everything. It was a great way for us to increase our per person [check] mean. The law required customers to buy food with the drinks, and the price was affordable. We were processing up to 50 orders a day, all 100% mobile, and working as fast as possible to meet demand,” Aldaco said.
“We had dedicated staff serving our alcohol-to-go program and made sure everything was organized. I have to say that each order had some kind of alcoholic drink to go, either a one shot cocktail or a liter of margaritas. During the pandemic, sales were 50% alcohol. Today it’s about 60% food and 40% alcohol.
Cocktails are on sale to go at Dudley’s bar and restaurant in Manhattan in March 2020. Three years later, margaritas, especially personalized, are on the rise when it comes to cocktails
Ryan Fletter of Barolo Grill in Denver shared a similar experience: “At first we didn’t really think about selling bottles of wine as much as we were doing wines by the glass, or cocktails and beer, things that we could sell. regularly to customers who could not sit in our restaurant. Now after three years, in my experience, most people still want the wines that no one else had.
The Trends Report shows how the industry has managed to adapt in the face of the toughest headwinds.
The details also shed light on the current state of the restaurant industry, with the choice of alcoholic beverages significantly influencing diners’ choices.
The survey also revealed surprising results suggesting that when it comes to drinking wine, more millennials (37%) consume wine with a restaurant meal compared to baby boomers (30%), Generation X (30%) or Generation Z. (27 percent).
While take-out orders have their moments, there’s nothing quite like in-person tasting events which continue to remain popular among wine and beer drinkers with around 80% of customers taking advantage of these activities.