Cocktail reception, happy hour or evening networking stints at any event typically involve wine, beer or other alcohol. Across the industry, meeting attendees are demanding healthier menus and are now requesting low and non-alcohol options at functions.
Joe Herrig, a certified sommelier and works with a beverage wholesaler in the Atlanta, GA area, says those attendees are the same consumers that were raised under social-responsible initiatives. “People want to go out and enjoy themselves with an adult beverage that tastes sophisticated, but maybe they don’t want the buzz that goes along with alcohol, whether their motives are wellness-driven, a factor of social responsibility, or both.”
“We like to say that it should be an invitation, but not an expectation, to consume beverage alcohol,” states Taylor Amerman, the global alcohol responsibility manager for Brown-Forman, which owns Jack Daniels whiskey, Finlandia vodka as well as various wineries. Below are a few tips to make your next event safer and more all-encompassing:
#1: Serve options. If you’re serving wine or beer, consider offering an equally enticing option for non-drinkers. “Sure, greet people with some champagne, but also have water and non-alcoholic drinks. It’s not enough to say, ‘I can go get you a water,’ because that makes it a secondary, lesser experience. We need to be cognizant of this element of diversity and inclusion,” reminds Amerman.
Joe Herrig shares, “A big part of providing an outstanding customer experience is giving people options. Providing a carefully curated offering that has something for everyone creates an experience where the convention-goer feels comfortable and doesn’t have to make a million special requests.”
#2: Label food and desserts that are prepared with alcohol. “If I accidentally eat some bourbon chicken it’s no big deal, but if someone in recovery eats bourbon chicken, it’s a really serious issue,” Amerman says. “Even if it’s just a little bit, or the alcohol has been cooked off, it still needs to be labeled in the food description, just as you would for food allergens.”
#3: Treat all beverages the same. “Tasty, healthy non-alcoholic drinks should be treated the same as their alcoholic counterparts,” Amerman says. She advises mocktails should be clearly labeled on the same drink menu as the other drinks and served in the same glassware. “They should be available from the same bar, not only at a separate table just for mocktails, which some may find socially shaming.”
#4: Food and beverage together. Amerman advises us when alcoholic beverages are served, food should be served right alongside it. “The food should be high-protein and not salty or greasy, which only makes people more thirsty.”
Herrig believes that there is a need for low and non-alcohol alternatives. “It’s exciting to see all the high-quality options we have now in distilled spirits, beer, and reduced-alcohol wines. It gives us another way to put the guest experience first by providing more sophisticated non-alcohol options for those who don’t wish to drink alcohol at the event.”
While recognizing the undeniable trend toward health and wellness, Amerman shares, “At the end of the day, all humans want to connect and fit in with their community. We can help by creating a responsible drinking culture.”