A big part of the huge cocktail movement in the U.S. right now revolves around using fresh, local ingredients. The whole “farm to table” idea is not just in small, intimate restaurants – it’s everywhere. However, one part of the industry that is having a little trouble adapting is the bigger restaurant and bar chains. Chris Ojeda of West Hollywood’s Soho House told Forbes that the use of fresh herbs and gourmet ingredients has proved to be more than a trend and that “it’s time for the large chains and suburban area bars to adopt what is now an industry standard.”
It’s not that chain restaurants don’t want to offer cocktails with fresh ingredients, but when you’re trying to please a high volume of people in several different locations, things can get a little hairy. Also, when you’re trying to keep things fresh/local/organic, there’s only so much supply and a lot of demand. Smaller farmers are struggling to keep up with the demand of the general public, never mind a giant chain restaurant asking for large daily deliveries.
Although the head honchos at chain restaurants like to dictate everything, we think they’re going to have to loosen the reigns a bit to make this work. They need to start by creating a small section of the cocktail menu that features fresh ingredients – maybe even leave space for one cocktail so that individual franchises can create a drink based on local tastes and available ingredients.
The guys at corporate headquarters also need to provide some sort of education for franchisees as to why they are doing this, why it’s important and how they can go about choosing the best produce and herbs for their specific restaurant. Help them research farms and distributors in their area and find the best quality for the most reasonable prices. Yes, they are going to have to pay more for these fresh ingredients and it’s going to be more time consuming, but in the long run they will be able to charge more for each cocktail and impress customers with their dedication to quality.
The move to fresh cocktail ingredients for chain restaurants is going to be slow, but as we previously mentioned – this isn’t a trend anymore. It’s simply what consumers expect when ordering drinks. The sooner chain restaurants make the changes to meet the demand, the better off they will be.