Simplifying soda sales

Each year, about 2.2 billion orders leave pizzerias across the country without beverages. That amounts to 6 million orders per day, and a “no beverage” incidence rate of 50%. Imagine, then, if that 50% became 49%. Think about how much additional revenue and profit that would generate for the pizza industry. That seemingly small 1% could translate into an extra 43 million beverage servings for the pizza segment. Growing revenue and profit at a time when restaurants are seeing traffic declines and decreased consumer confidence is no easy task. But it’s not impossible when you consider the opportunity that takeout beverage sales represent.

Capturing Sales

To capture these additional dollars, you must first recognize the reasons why a guest might not be purchasing beverages with their takeout orders. Key factors impacting this decision include:

A) Economics—Guests are reluctant to purchase what some might call “restaurant-priced” beverages when they believe they can purchase lower-priced beverages elsewhere.
B) Convenience—Transporting food and beverages from the restaurant to the car and from the car to the table can require a two-handed balancing act.
C) Choice—Guests want more beverage product, flavor and form variety in pizza outlets. While economics and convenience are critical factors, for the purpose of this article, let’s address choice, the high-leverage area where improvement can be gained by understanding what beverage choices your guests want. Consumer research reveals that pizzeria guests in particular are looking for more product, flavor and packaging options from restaurants. Some guests want robust flavors, such as the bite of root beer, that enhance the taste of their pizzas. Others are more interested in beverages that refresh the palate and help wash food down, such as fruit punch fl avors. Guests want to drink their beverages in the form—bottle, can or fountain—that suits their life at that moment. The right brands, packaging and equipment are critical to success in beverage takeout. How you market your offerings is
equally important.

Getting Your Message Across

Guests visit pizzerias because they’re looking for an easy, affordable, youth-friendly meal and dining experience. Communicating to guests that beverages are part of satisfying those needs starts with focused marketing in three key areas of your restaurant: the counter, the beverage station and the door. For example, since 60% of purchase decisions are made at the point of sale, the counter represents an opportunity to remind guests that a meal is not complete without a beverage. Meanwhile, messaging at the beverage station might communicate the breadth of your beverage options and encourage trial of other flavors, while at-the-door marketing might focus on telling guests about specials and promotions. Because each restaurant is different, each marketing approach should differ slightly. Your marketing strategy should reflect your restaurant’s culture, target audience and operational capabilities. While smart marketing is a necessary component of a well-thought-out plan to increase takeout beverage sales, operators must also consider a three-phase approach to thinking about and growing takeout business.

That process looks like this:

1. Understanding the takeout spectrum—The spectrum ranges from “no off-premise food and beverage dining” to “total off-premise food and beverage dining.”
2. Setting objectives and developing plans—Where do you want to be on the spectrum and how will you get there?
3. Plan execution—Implementation is driven by 10 factors, which are grouped into three categories: operations, communications and guest relations. While you do not have to address all 10 of the takeout drivers, to optimize your plan, focus on several.
James Latimore is a senior marketing manager at Coca-Cola Refreshments USA and can be reached at