By Georgina Wild, marketing manager for him! which analyses consumer behaviour and develops action plans for over 100 retail clients

There is a huge opportunity being missed to sell more drinks to existing customers in food-to-go outlets, as the penetration of customers buying drinks in those outlets is much lower than that of food items. Furthermore, there is some slippage in intended versus actual purchases, meaning we are not fulfilling all our customers’ intentions to buy a drink. With such high margins offered by drinks, it really is worth a little focus to get it right.

Are staff doing all they can to ’up-sell’ drinks to customers? Probably not, as only 11% of customers told our consumer tracking survey that a member of staff informed them about a meal deal. Staff can play a large part in increasing sales of drinks in any outlet. Incentivise staff to sell drinks and other cakes and treats with every purchase, create teams and competitions to get staff excited about it and, of course, reward those staff who perform.

Another reason for missed sales could be that customers currently rate the choice of cold drinks quite low - with the suitability of water, juice and carbonates rated at only 7.5 out of 10; 8% of customers said that they would buy branded energy drinks if they were offered in an outlet; 14% of customers said they would buy branded fountain/post-mix soft drinks (for example Coke or Pepsi), so consider offering a free refill; and 18% would buy branded bottled soft drinks (for example, Coke or Pepsi). Make sure that the range is right for your type of outlet and ensure good availability at key times of the day.

Customers are open to being influenced. Although the majority of customers say they know the drink they want to order, 17% read the menu to help them make their selection. The menu is a great opportunity to highlight new products and offer a meal deal.