How to Navigate the “I’ll Just Have Water” Trend

As a bar or restaurant owner or manager, you likely analyze your revenue at a microscopic level. You may have noticed that in recent years, the demand for healthier beverage options has led customers to fall back on water as their drink of choice. Although that may help cut back on calories, it ultimately cuts away at your bottom line too. Here’s what’s happening, why it’s an inconvenience, and what you can do to work around it.

glass of water with a straw and lemon sitting outside on a sunny picnic table

What’s Happening

People are making healthier choices in their everyday lives. Daily exercise routines, gluten and carb-free meals, and ditching sugary drinks are becoming standard diet practices these days. While these are great benefits for personal and societal health, these trends have the potential to put those in the food and beverage industries in a pickle if they’re not prepared. 

Why It’s an Inconvenience

Water Limits Consumer Choice

As the seemingly simple, “I’ll just have water,” trend indicates, consumer preferences will continue to favor better-for-you alternatives to standard soda in the long run. People want healthier choices, but if they’re unaware of the options available at your establishment, water becomes the reliable fallback. As a restaurant owner or manager, you never want to limit your customers in any way, especially considering customers are more likely to remember bad experiences over good ones. Not appealing to their preferences with products they want can negatively impact consumer experience and expectations.

Water Limits Your Servers

Servers are a very integral part of the food service industry when it comes to customer satisfaction. Making a good first impression starts with introductions and the beverage order, and sets the tone for the remainder of the dining experience. If a customer’s immediate choice is water, your servers will likely miss out on opportunities to upsell other options, impress their diners with recommendations, and ultimately earn higher tips.

Water Limits Your Profit

It’s simply unreasonable to charge for water in most cases, and there’s no debating that. If you try to charge for water you’re likely going to wind up with unhappy customers and disgruntled servers who have to take the heat for it. But at the same time, every glass of water you hand out takes the place of another beverage you could be charging for. This is a dilemma that’s as old as time in the restaurant and bar industries, and as the saying goes, “We’re running a business, not a charity.”

What You Can Do

Provide Customers With Healthy Alternatives

If servers can immediately recommend healthy options for beverages, overcoming the water obstacle will become easier. Think about how much consideration servers pay to the alcohol menu. A lot of emphasis is placed on knowledge, availability, and suggestion of beer, wine, and cocktail selections. Try giving the same focus to non-alcoholic offerings to convert those "I'll just have water" drinkers.

Likewise, instead of simply stating, “We serve Pepsi products,” expanding on the available options will help your customers evaluate their choices. There’s a strong likelihood that if your customers hear Pepsi, they’ll think, "Okay, they offer Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and MTN Dew", but that barely scratches the surface! Servers should always mention the iced teas, lemonades, juices, and varieties of water available. “We serve Pepsi products here – let me tell you what I can offer you this evening.” Or, if the consumer still states, "I'll just have water," servers can then say, "would you like sparkling, enhanced, or tap?"

Set Your Servers Up for Success 

Provide your servers with tips, tricks, and tools they need to be successful. There’s no limit to the number of things you can do, but we’ve listed a few good pieces below to get you started:

  • Hold training sessions to get your staff acquainted with new menu options
  • Consider strategic menu placements before customers are even seated
  • Provide table toppers or server book inserts with full beverage options 
  • Teach servers about the optimal times to upsell unique beverage options (appetizer drinks, dessert drinks, etc.)
  • Utilize the power of suggestion and recommendation 
  • Offer samples

Partner With the Beverage Experts 

Managing the food and beverage portions of your business is a big task. However, there’s no shame in asking for help! The Bernick’s team is always committed to helping you serve your customers. We can help your servers by providing a diverse range of beverage options, regularly monitoring consumer trends and research, and offering training and tools to stay ahead.

Learn More about Partnering with Bernick's  No matter your seasonality, service model, or specialty - Bernick's has a food  and beverage solution for you. Learn More


Published on: Mar 25, 2022

Topics: Soda Fountain

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