Burger King, Sonic, Starbucks and Pizza Hut have all toyed with alcohol sales to varying degrees. But it’s unlikely that these QSRs or any others will extend alcohol to national distribution any time soon due to criticism of this practice by watchdog groups, and the abundance of beverage alternatives.
History shows that parent and consumer advocacy groups have influence with QSRs. A prime example of this is the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Participants in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) promise to devote 100% of their child-directed advertising to “better-for-you” foods. Both McDonalds and Burger King are members.
Beverage offerings have been expanded greatly over the last few years with very little of that expansion attributed to alcoholic options. Smoothies, coffee, frozen drinks, lemonade blends, sports drinks, and soft drink personalization tools such as Coca-Cola’s Freestyle have made appearances at QSRs around the country. With all the variety, restaurants are increasingly able to provide customers with satisfactory beverage options without the need for alcohol.
While it is unlikely that QSRs will embrace alcohol sales nationally, concepts such as the Whopper Bar provide a different model that might allow alcohol a foothold in the QSR industry. Some key aspects of the Whopper Bar that make it more alcohol-friendly include:
- No drive-thru: Even if alcohol is not available via the drive-thru, selling alcohol at a location with a drive-thru option brings the drinking and driving issue to the forefront.
- It is designed to sell higher-end items and competes more with fast casual and casual dining restaurants, which traditionally offer alcohol.
- Many locations are in nightlife friendly areas such as University CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort, Miami Beach’s tourist-heavy South Beach, and the Rio casino in Las Vegas.
As QSRs continue to expand beverage offerings, alcohol is not likely to be the next big thing, at least at the traditional QSR.