March menus showed a lot of “luck o’ the Irish,” with the usual stouts, whiskeys and green beer on display. Beyond Irish elixirs, last month ushered in plenty of other beverage news. As Mintel predicted in naming “Liquid Assets” as a 2013 Foodservice Trend, beverages – both alcoholic and booze-free – are becoming big news and big business. Burger King has made a major move in the coffee wars, adding a new roast (complete with fancy menu copy) and lattes to the morning line-up; Denny’s emphasizes its diner roots with a LTO brew; and others up the flavor ante with coffee LTOs.

  • Burger King – Smooth Roast Coffee : Our New Smooth Roast Coffee from Seattle’s Best Coffee® is a 100% Latin American Arabica blend characterized by sweet, nutty and chocolaty notes that delivers a balanced mild flavor and pairs perfectly with both sweet and savory menu items.
  • Burger King – Plain Latte: A rich, creamy and perfect balance of 100% Latin American Arabica coffee and velvety deliciousness. Available with 2% or nonfat milk.
  • Denny’s-Signature Diner Roast Iced Coffee: Chill out with our new Iced Coffee. Relax with an ice-cold take on our classic pick-me-up.
  • Caribou Coffee – Cafe Milan Latte: Flavored with honey and hazelnut syrup, and dusted on top with cinnamon.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts – Irish Creme Latte: Available hot or iced, with espresso derived from 100-percent Fair Trade Certified coffee beans and steamed milk, topped with caramel drizzle.

New smoothie flavors are also coming on strong, both in quick service setting and in smoothie concepts – where fruit-and-veggie blends continue to add to the mix.

  • Burger King – Piña Colada Smoothie: Escape from the ordinary with the new Piña Colada Smoothie made with sweet pineapple, tropical coconut and blended with rich yogurt to create a light and classic flavor combination that will transport you to your favorite island destination. Each smoothie provides a full serving of fruit.
  • McDonald’s – Blueberry-Pomegranate flavor
  • Jamba Juice – Tropical Harvest Smoothie: A fusion of mangos, peaches and passion mango juice blended with juices from butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot.
  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe – Island Green Smoothie: Made with fresh spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, and banana. Caribbean Carrot Smoothie: Contains carrots, mango, banana, goji, and orange juice.

Full service restaurants are preparing for warmer days and longer nights with creative cocktails; blood orange may be the summer flavor trend if these two quaffs are any indication:

  • Bonefish Grill – Blood Orange Paloma: Hornitos Reposado, Solerno blood orange liqueur, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice + fresh lime.
  • Maggiano’s – The Sicilian: Herradura Tequila, Aperol, blood orange, lime, simple syrup and Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters.

In food news, menus got a lot saucier. As Mintel has also noted, high protein prices means it’s time to put the emphasis on other parts of the plates. Bold, flavor-forward sauces can dress up everything from potato skins to burgers and beyond.

  • La Madeleine – Roasted Salmon & Dill Sauce: Served with asparagus over rice Provençal, topped with creamy garlic dill sauce and garnished with lemon slices.
  • Sonic America’s Drive In – Spicy Jumbo Popcorn Chicken: When hunger strikes, pop it in the mouth with SONIC’s new Spicy Jumbo Popcorn Chicken. All-whitemeat bite-sized spicy chicken that goes perfect with all-new Berry Spicy and Creamy Chipotle dipping sauces.
  • Carl’s Jr. – Jim Beam Bourbon Thickburger: A charbroiled 100% Black Angus patty topped with crispy bacon, onion straws, and Pepper Jack cheese – all slathered in real Jim Beam Bourbon sauce.
  • P.F. Chang’s China Grill – Thai Basil Sambal Noodles: Rice noodles, fresh vegetables and Thai basil tossed in a spicy coconut sambal sauce.
  • Ram Restaurant & Brewery – Pulled Pork Potato Skins: Kitchen rules #1, #2, and #3: everything is better with pulled pork. Skins topped with cheddar jack cheese, pulled pork, drizzled with Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce and finished with chopped red onion. Served with BBQ garlic sour cream sauce.

Mintel Insights

Be Fluid with Innovation: Elaborate coffees, smoothies and shakes are little indulgences that consumers are craving more and more

Double up the Sauces: Whether offering more options for chicken nuggets or layering multiple sauces on an entree, these finishing touches make the meal.

To learn more about this trend and others, click here.

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