Kids and pizza are best friends forever—stats have shown that a full one-fifth of children and adolescents eat pizza on any given day. But while you may already cater to little ones with a kids menu, have you considered offering special beverages designed just for them?
At Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint, with locations in Jackson and Biloxi, Mississippi, kid-friendly beverages are a huge part of the pizzeria’s success. “Our business is based around families and especially children, and parents and kids alike love the fact that we have so many fun drinks,” notes Spencer Treanor, co-manager of Sal & Mookie’s. “Having all of our different types of drinks for the family is a great way to get them all involved in making decisions and having a fun time while they eat. Plus, the kids love to each get different flavors of drinks that they can mix, match and swap around at the table, keeping the fun going even after they’ve ordered.”
It’s a good idea to cater to tykes with pint-size food portions, but if you’re overlooking the beverage menu, you could be turning away extra income. Of course, beverages are often high-profit items, but you can also reap rewards through increased customer satisfaction, more frequent return visits and higher average tickets. Read on for six ways to craft a kid-friendly beverage program that reaches beyond the soda, juice and milk box.
The Cucumber Reviver at California Pizza Kitchen features pureed pineapple and cucumber, Monin cucumber syrup, fresh mint and agave sour with club soda.
1 Create a mocktail menu. Why should adults have all the fun? A thoughtful list of mocktails allows kids (and teetotaling adults, for that matter) to enjoy fun drinks sans alcohol. California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), based in Playa Vista, California, with nearly 300 locations worldwide, offers (in addition to lemonade and several flavors of fruity iced teas) the Cucumber Reviver, with freshly puréed pineapple and cucumber, Monin Cucumber syrup, fresh torn mint and agave sour, topped with club soda. Its Fresh Strawberry Mango Cooler incorporates strawberries hand-shaken with Fresca soda and South Seas syrup, which blends flavors of mango, guava and ginger, while a Sparkling Cranberry Cooler is simplicity itself: cranberry juice and sparkling water with fresh lime. “Our Fresh Strawberry Mango Cooler quickly became one of our very top-selling nonalcoholic beverages, ahead of soft drinks,” says Ashley Ceraolo, senior vice president of marketing and beverage at CPK.
At Sal & Mookie’s, sodas made with flavored syrups and sparkling water have also been a huge hit, even while sharing menu space with traditional brand-name sodas. “Kids love the concoctions that we call Mookie’s Mocktails, made with multiple flavors of Monin syrups,” Treanor says. “Some of our bestsellers are the Berry Vanilla Remix, Big Apple Punch, Nada Colada, Sal’s Strawberry Fizz, and the berry-flavored Yankees Home Run.” Kids can even get creative by making up their own custom flavors.
2 Offer a take-home bonus. Collectible cups instantly ramp up the fun appeal for kids’ beverages. But Davanni’s, based in Plymouth, Minnesota, takes the concept further with its annual, wildly popular Kiddy Kup design contest, for which kids under 10 draw their own designs, with the winning entry emblazoned on Kiddy Cups for the following year. The contest has proven a great way to involve kids and make parents proud, while encouraging customers young and old to engage with the pizzeria. Best of all, offering collectible cups ensures kids and parents will take home a piece of your brand—and hopefully think of you often, leading to increased future visits. You can even appeal to sustainable-minded moms and dads by offering a small discount for refills when kids return with the cups.
“We’re currently testing several new sparkling water beverages with a variety of fresh herbs and fruits, which are low in calories—typically 30 to 50, depending on the selection.”
—Ashley Ceraolo, California Pizza Kitchen
3 Up the fun factor. At Sal & Mookie’s, mocktails are served up in a typical 16-ounce glass, but the staff uses garnishes to supply the wow factor. “Depending on the drink ordered, it will come with a cherry, lime, lemon, orange, or a mixture of them to give it some fun visual appeal,” Treanor explains. Meanwhile, its Apple Pie Milkshake emulates the popular dessert with a sprinkling of crumbled graham crackers.
Kids notoriously love visuals, so don’t be afraid to get creative—toothpick a gummy worm to drape over the glass’s rim, drizzle milkshakes with a swirl of syrup, or layer ingredients to give drinks a cool multi-tiered look. You can also use fun glassware in eye-popping shades or unusual shapes—think tiki designs or glasses that depict fruit or animals—as well as wacky looped or colorful straws.
The Sal & Mookie’s Abita Root Beer Float is a popular favorite with the younger audience.
4 Stay cool. If you offer ice cream or gelato in-store, why not cross-utilize those items for the beverage menu? Sal & Mookie’s offers floats, milkshakes, malts, ice cream sodas and slushes to appeal to the younger crowd. Most of these can also do double-duty as adult-friendly dessert options. California Pizza Kitchen boasts frozen lemonade on the menu—an ideal refresher for sweltering summer days. Need numerical proof of ice-cold appeal? The widespread (and kid-friendly) chain Uno Pizzeria & Grill serves 17,757 gallons of slush a year—enough to freeze over an official-size hockey rink!
5 Market smart. Server suggestion and front-and-center menu placement are both key sales drivers for beverages at Sal & Mookie’s. “We market our fun beverages to both the kids and the parents,” Treanor notes. “We have them listed in our Beverages section of the menu, as well as located on our main menu, and servers are great at suggesting and guiding the customers based on their favorite flavors.” To more subtly suggest fun options, the staff also displays syrup bottles behind the in-store ice cream parlor counter—a favorite hangout for young ones ogling the flavors and deciding what’s for dessert.
“Kids love the concoctions we call Mookie’s Mocktails, made with multiple flavors of Monin syrups. Some of our bestsellers are the Berry Vanilla Remix, Big Apple Punch, Nada Colada, Sal’s Strawberry Fizz, and the berry-flavored Yankees Home Run.”
—Spencer Treanor, Sal & Mookie’s
6 Consider low-sugar alternatives. Last January, CNN reported that almost two-thirds of children in the United States consumed at least one sugary beverage on any given day, and roughly 30% consumed two or more a day, between 2011 and 2014, according to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. While monitoring kiddies’ sugar consumption is outside your scope, you can offer beverages that deliver fun and fizz with less of the sweet stuff.
Try low-sugar craft sodas or fruity seltzers that cater to concerned parents while still pleasing kids with fun flavors, or make your own healthy soda alternatives with club soda and squeezes of fresh citrus fruit. Alternatively, no-sugar-added teas can be jazzed up with just a splash of juice or syrup to lighten the sugar load. “We’re currently testing several new sparkling water beverages with a variety of fresh herbs and fruits, which are low in calories—typically 30 to 50, depending on the selection,” Ceraolo says. “We’ve been innovating with a variety of creative better-for-you options, including nonalcoholic beverages that place emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients and unique flavors.” Even better, they’ve been a hit with kids and adults alike!