Beverage sales mean profits. But with so much fierce competition in the foodservice arena, not just any beverage will do. Offering the right mix of beverage choices, from hot- and cold-brewed coffee to slushies and frozen drinks, cappuccinos, milkshakes and more, plus opportunities for customization, are the keys to boosting the bottom line. Here’s a quick look at some of the top frozen drinks selling right now, and the equipment necessary to produce them.
Frozen drinks and cocktails are moving beyond those sticky, messy slushy machines of yesteryear and into new, more efficient, automated and cleaner designs.
Roofers Union in Washington, D.C., showcases two frozen cocktails on its rooftop drinks menu: a frozen Pimm's Cup and a frozen Hibiscus Margarita. Beverage Director and General Manager Dave Delaplaine combines all ingredients (Pimm's, water, gin, fresh cucumber juice, ginger syrup, simple syrup and lemon juice for the Pimm's; and tequila, triple sec, lime juice, simple syrup and hibiscus tea for the Margarita), and puts each batch through a frozen drink machine.
"It's critical to make these frozen drinks with some sort of water, so each drink is able to freeze properly and to the right consistency," Delaplaine says. "On a hot night, we can go through several batches of each type of frozen drink."
At Puesto Mexican Street Food in San Diego, Beverage Director Lucien Conner combines its housemade frozen horchata with white rum and cinnamon for a boozy frozen dessert called the Puesto Horchata Loca. "Frozen beverage consistency is all about balancing sugar, alcohol content, and temperature," he says. "We use a commercial soft-serve machine to keep things frozen, creamy, and luxurious."
Frosé All Day
The "frosé" movement continues to build a wider scale this year after hitting the marketplace in 2016. The trend continues to piggyback on a sudden rise in rosé wine consumption during the summer months in recent years.
Pastry Chef Jeffrey Robinson of BIN 36 in Chicago takes the frosé concept to another level, transforming it into a plated dessert that turns into an end-of-the-meal cocktail when it begins to warm. "For a standard frosé recipe, you might freeze a bottle of rosé in a bowl or pan and put it in a blender with some simple syrup and lemon juice and blend it like a margarita," he says. "We approached it differently and draw upon flavors of a white sangria but use rosé."
Robinson freezes the rosé, but intermittently scrapes it down with a fork to create a granita or shaved ice that he then scoops into a coupe cocktail glass with house made raspberry sorbet, a drizzle of orange and cognac syrup and finishes the drink with a garnish of strawberries compressed in pomegranate juice, candied lemon zest and fresh mint.
The Hampton Social, a downtown Chicago hotspot for East Coast fare, offers a frozen take on frosé in the form of a cocktail made instead with a blend of rosé and vodka with white peach puree and a peach sugar rim and fresh mint leaf garnish.
At the c-store level, NACS, The Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, estimates that more than 70 percent of all U.S. convenience stores carry some version of a frozen carbonated beverage, which delivers an estimated 50 percent margin on every sale.
Sales of slushy-type drinks, including those with coffee as an ingredient, have risen 10 percent to 14 percent over the past several years, according to data from The NPD Group. And while frozen beverages appeal to consumers of all demographics, women make up the largest demographic group that purchases frozen beverages, specifically women between 18 to 34 years of age, according to NPD.
Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz, a foodservice leader among c-stores, has for years played up its selection and customization options for its many beverages. Many c-stores go "after the Millennials and young mothers these days, but it's still important to cater to all types of customers when it comes to beverage," says Matt Gray, coffee concepts manager for Sheetz. "One way in which we do that is through customization. With whatever we offer, we try to make each beverage personal for everyone, so our customers can get what they want and how they want it when they want it."
In addition to its variety of iced and frozen coffee drinks and all-natural fruit smoothies and frozen creams, the c-store introduced a line of Greek yogurt smoothies as well as more indulgent milkshakes spiked with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, toasted marshmallow and coffee.
Advancements in equipment provide better quality drinks with lower maintenance and ease of use. Sheetz uses self-serve, touchscreen milkshake and frozen coffee product machines.
Taco Bell and KFC have experimented with slushies over the years, even using ice cream/shake machines to create new frozen fruit and soda drinks.
And, as kitchen real estate continues to shrink among operators nationwide, many manufacturers now offer ways to pack a more powerful frozen punch in a smaller footprint.
One frozen drink dispenser has different flavor options for fountain beverages as well as an adjustable time and flow rate, allowing the drinks to be tailored to customer or operator needs. Flow control provides shutoff to eliminate dripping at the nozzle and improve cleanliness. In addition, a purge mode provides easy cleaning, simplifies flavor changes and minimizes flavor carry-over.
Creative forces among cocktail artists combined with equipment innovations among quick-serve, c-store and fast-casual segments continue to heat up frozen drinks.
Frozen Drink E&S
- High-powered blenders
- Specialty slushy and milkshake machines
- Traditional cocktail glasses
- Tiki glasses
- Insulated plastic cups