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While packaging up food for takeout and delivery required new systems, it was mostly familiar territory for restaurants. But when it comes to beverage delivery, there’s a whole new learning curve. 

In addition to stats that look at the overall value of a Grubhub partnership and the state of delivery today, the Grubhub x Technomic report found that non-alcohol and alcohol beverages are part of a complete dining experience while also boosting check averages and driving more impressive margins for restaurants.

Restaurants commonly mark up soda prices by an average of 1,150% over cost, while wine markups average about 400%. That translates to a huge profit potential, but for a long time that potential was tempered by take-out and delivery business.

Not anymore.

During the pandemic, restaurants discovered that it was indeed possible to offer beverage delivery as part of their overall services and still keep up with the demand. Packaging options increased, the profit margins were impressive, and the trend continues to this day.

Here’s how you can optimize your restaurant for beverage delivery — and yes, in some markets that includes alcohol too!

The new realities of delivery: a spotlight on beverages

While the hospitality industry is driven by the needs and wants of a very hungry public, it’s the data sourced by trusted researchers that helps owners and operators identify important trends that can help them better their business. 

Grubhub and Technomic have once again partnered up for an online ordering report that looks at what matters most to consumers when ordering takeout and, most importantly, how restaurants can leverage that information.

Gen Zers and Millennials are most likely to add beverages to their orders, but demand is up across a variety of demographics — 24% of consumers surveyed typically get a non-alcohol beverage as part of their order, 21% get coffee, and 10% get an alcohol beverage. Vendors are answering the call by incorporating more drinks into their to-go menus:

  • 63% of independent restaurant operators surveyed for the report offer alcohol beverages today vs. just 15% in 2019
  • 81% offer hot non-alcoholic beverages in 2022 vs. 23% in 2019
  • 82% offer non-alcohol beverages today vs. 49% in 2019

How adding alcohol to your menu can increase average ticket size

Alcohol is no longer restricted to on-premise dining. Nearly half of consumers in the U.S. who buy alcohol online (some 44%) first started doing so in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe causing widespread restaurant closures. In 2019, only 19% of consumers bought their alcohol online.

Restaurants saw a similar surge in alcohol beverage delivery, thanks in part to special pandemic-related provisions put in place by 39 states and the District of Columbia that allowed eateries to deliver alcohol in areas where that had previously been prohibited. An expert from the National Restaurant Association said restaurant sales increased an average of 5-10% as a result.

While some of those states have since reversed those provisions, many others have kept them in place or instituted new but similar rules regarding alcohol drink delivery. New York is one such place. 

NYC alcohol delivery is alive and well following a budget deal (passed on April 7, 2022) that legalized the sale and delivery of to-go cocktails through 2025. Under the bill, any restaurant that already sells alcohol on site can extend those beverage options to delivery customers, but those customers must also buy “a substantial food item.”

Grubhub’s own data backs up the benefits of alcohol delivery, too. Orders with alcohol have a per-ticket average $14-$15 higher than alcohol-free orders, and we’re predicting restaurants in New York could see sales spike by 7% if they decide to add alcohol to their to-go and delivery menus.

In many ways, the changes in New York could be viewed as a sort of pilot program. If seen as successful, well-regulated alcohol delivery could work in other areas too. 

Even if you can’t deliver alcohol now, offering non-alcohol beverages can help you work out any kinks in your system and prepare consumers for the day when you’re able to expand your program.

What’s the best alcohol delivery app?

A whopping 85% of independent restaurant operators surveyed are satisfied with how Grubhub delivery partners are handling orders that include both hot and cold items. Not only does that number exceed competitor averages, it shows that Grubhub partners are interested in helping restaurants exceed customer expectations and provide a stellar experience.

Use Grubhub for Restaurants alcohol-selling guidelines to start adding alcohol to your menu. Suggestions include:

  • Establish alcohol packaging guidelines including sourcing spill-proof containers and packing cold beverages separately from hot items
  • Pay special attention to local labeling requirements as dictated by laws in your area
  • Instruct your delivery drivers to check IDs during delivery — or just rely on Grubhub drivers who are instructed to check IDs themselves when dropping an order that contains alcohol
  • Be clear on alcohol returns guidelines — drivers shouldn’t leave alcohol with anyone who is underage, without proper ID, or unable to answer the door
  • Ensure your liquor license is up to date

For more information on alcohol delivery with Grubhub, reach out to account support or sign up for Grubhub for Restaurants today!Promoting your new alcohol beverage delivery offering

Marketing your delivery menu requires forethought — as in planning out a great menu — and then making consumers aware that menu exists.

The planning part is arguably the most fun. Check out Grubhub’s list of alcohol delivery trends to see which cocktails are hot. Then see which of your favorites make the most sense in the context of your restaurant’s menu and average price point. Margaritas and Mexican beer are having a moment, but looking ahead you can expect consumers to be clamoring for:

  • Throwback cocktails like negronis and old-fashioneds
  • Low-ABV beverages and “mocktails”
  • Hard seltzers
  • Drinks made with spirits and mixers produced locally
  • New takes on fruit- and veggie-driven cocktails — think Bloody Mary but cooler!

Once you have your menu in place, turn to Grubhub Direct to create a customized email marketing campaign using owned customer data from your own commission-free ordering site. 

You can connect with people who have ordered drinks in the past, let customers know you’re launching an exciting new menu, and offer promos to entice consumers into making a food and drink order ASAP.

How do you deliver a drink?

It’s easy to see the appeal of to-go drinks and alcohol delivery, but there are several potential pitfalls that could affect customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

The biggest concern is finding a way to ensure drinks arrive intact without spilling or leaking en route. A second consideration is drink temperature — no one wants a warm margarita (a very popular drink among Grubhub diners).

The key to delivering a drink customers will enjoy is to address proper steps of service in-house while also partnering with a third-party delivery service that cares about the end result. When fine-tuning your end, remember that there are many different scenarios that could inspire people to order beverages with their takeout food. 

Perhaps they’re dining al fresco over the summer holidays and want food for an impromptu picnic. Maybe they’re celebrating a national food holiday and want a full slate of food and drinks to suit a crowd.

Whatever the reason, you can ensure satisfaction by creating delivery guidelines and choosing packaging that works indoors, outdoors, and almost anywhere in between. Some drink delivery ideas seen over the last couple years include:

  • Single-serve stemless wine glasses with the wine already sealed inside (sold sale-ready by wineries/wholesalers)
  • Mason jars or similar glass vessels that you can offer as “souvenir glassware” and give discounts for if customers bring them back to your restaurant (these containers also screw closed prevent spillage during transport)
  • Insulated paper containers that keep beverages cold or hot
  • Branded tape placed up and over cups, keeping lids secure and sealing straw/drink holes until delivery

Some restaurants are upping the ante by investing in drink packaging that’s costlier but also more memorable. For example, pairing a half bottle of sparkling wine with a mini carafe of OJ for DIY mimosas or taping a sealed airline-style liquor bottle to a soda cup for an at-home cocktail experience.

Stay on top of delivery and takeout trends with Grubhub

When asked what would inspire them to order delivery and takeout more often, 22% of consumers said they’re looking for expanded food and average selections on third-party platforms. While that ask is only one factor diners consider when deciding where to source their next meal, it’s clearly an increasingly important one.  

Take advantage of the beverage delivery trend by reaching out to account support for help perfecting your new beverage menu and advice on best practices. 

With Grubhub tools at your disposal, you’ll soon see why 9 out of 10 independent restaurant operators who use Grubhub agree that Grubhub has helped them increase the number of takeout and delivery orders they execute — an accomplishment that outranks the competitor average.

For more fascinating facts and useful data, download our 2022 Restaurant Online Ordering Report.