Sponsored by Ghirardelli Professional Products
Offering milkshakes or other desserts that require a straw instead of a fork or spoon is an easy way for restaurant operators to increase sales and profit margins. With a recent survey conducted by OnePoll showing 69% of consumers saying they’re likely to order drinkable desserts over edible ones, sippable sweets present a must-not-miss opportunity for operators.
Among the many operators already upping their dessert beverage game are major chains like Panera Bread, which launched a line of Bakery Shakes inspired by its signature bakery items in select markets; the fast-casual chain plans to bring them back for a potential national rollout once the weather warms.
Smashburger, a mid-sized fast-casual chain, recently began offering a selection of chocolate-centric milkshakes as LTOs.
Even indie restaurants like Kook Burger and Bar, which has a menu of $30 Shoobie Shake milkshakes topped with everything from brownies and cheesecake to a cloud of cotton candy, are menuing drinkable treats.
How are these sippable sweet treats performing? Customers are, well, drinking them up. “We’ve seen customers respond positively to the innovation and the shakes are a huge success, lifting the shake category’s sales by as much as 21%,” said Emily Romme, senior brand manager for Smashburger.
(Branded) ingredient appeal
While consumers’ preference for desserts that require straws over forks is part of what’s behind the category’s success, another driver is the use of branded ingredients.
According to recent consumer research conducted by Salsify, 90% of consumers surveyed said they were willing to pay more for something when it comes from a brand they trust.
In recent years, Smashburger has been creating its top-selling, innovative LTO shakes with Ghirardelli products. For example, in June 2021, Smashburger released the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Shake, which elevated a traditional chocolate milkshake with rich milk chocolate and chocolate chips. A year later, Smashburger debuted two fresh shake flavors: the S’mores Shake—bringing guests a tasty frozen treat that combined all the flavors of a campfire, and, during the holidays, the Mocha Chocolate Chip Shake and Peppermint Hot Chocolate Shake.
Smashburger attributes the success of its shakes, in large part, to the partnership with Ghirardelli.
“We believe using a branded ingredient is extremely helpful, especially for an LTO that has a short time period to gain trial,” said Romme. “Leveraging brand recognition and quality cues makes it easy for guests to trust your product and incentivizes them to try it.”
The collaboration has been so successful that Smashburger plans to continue to partner with Ghirardelli for its shake LTOs, typically in the summer and during the holiday seasons.
Flavor over format
Whether operators add shakes, mochas, smoothies, or frappes, what matters most to consumers is flavor. With endless options to choose from, what flavors should operators consider when building their dessert menu? Consumers still prefer traditional dessert flavors, like chocolate and vanilla, according to a survey conducted by OnePoll.
When it comes to chocolate, which brand operators use can make all the difference in the size of their sales and profits. Research from Technomic reveals that consumers’ preferred premium chocolate brand is Ghiradelli, and operators using Made with Ghirardelli program have the potential to more than double dessert sales.
At the end of the day (or meal), desserts are a customer's last impression of your establishment. Adding to drinkable desserts made with branded ingredients and featuring preferred flavors is sure to be a satisfying ending for customers and operators alike.
Ready to shake up your dessert menu? Visit Ghirardelli to learn more about how you can create a "Made with Ghirardelli" offering and start driving dessert sales.