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The Problem with "I'll Just Have Water" for Food Service Businesses

by Barbara Lee on April 26

As a bar or restaurant owner or manager, you likely analyze your revenue at a microscopic level. Maybe your servers have had lackluster tips after a busy night. And perhaps combined with those two issues you’ve had inventory you weren’t able to move and it affected your bottom line. Does any of this sound familiar? Here’s what’s happening and how to address it.

Consumers Want Choices

The seemingly standard “ice water with lemon, please,” beverage order is a trend in dining experiences but not for the reasons one might think. People are ordering more water, but not always due to financial reasons. Consumer preference continues to favor a better-for-you alternative to standard soda options. People want healthier choices and if they’re unaware of the options available at your establishment, water becomes the safe, reliable "better for me" fallback when a server asks what they’d like to drink.

So the problem with the ice water order for consumers is the feeling of being limited when it comes to the options listed on the menu. For businesses trying to vie for the valuable consumer dollar, not appealing to their preferences with the products they want can negatively affect the bottom line. It’s a missed opportunity!

Servers Want To Provide a Better Experience

Servers are a very integral part of the food service industry and also facilitate a great customer experience. Making a great first impression starts with introductions and the beverage order. This transaction sets the tone for the rest of the customer experience. If servers can immediately offer great options for beverages, overcoming the water obstacle will become easier. Think of it in relation to 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, so let's give the same focus to the non-alcoholic offerings in an effort to convert those "I'll just have water" drinkers as well.

Instead of servers simply stating, “We serve Pepsi products,” expanding on the available options will help your customers see what choices they have, including healthier alternatives to soda. 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 of what you offer! 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?"

Businesses Want Customer Satisfaction

For the food service industry, happy consumers and happy servers equal a successful business. Appealing to both groups - your internal and external guests' satisfaction in any business requires support. How do you know where to go? Bernick’s can be a positive resource for bars, restaurants, and food service in the recreation industry.


We're committed to helping you serve your customers. We can help your servers by providing new resources to help them let your customers know their options, and how to be more confident with upselling. Our team of food service experts can offer insight on everything from menu placement to table toppers to server book inserts. Relying on our partnership for research and consumer trends and how to handle the "I'll just have water" order with grace! 

Bar & Restaurant Case Study  Why partner with Bernick's? What is that partnership like for bars and  restaurants? How does working with Bernick's grow your business and make you  successful? Get the answers to these questions from the Bar & Restaurant owners  themselves. Download Now! 

Topics: Service, Business Insider

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