Soda Quest

If you’ve ever had an “itch” for a Mountain Dew Baja Blast you probably found that craving took you to one place and one place alone: Taco Bell. The popular Mexican fast food chain has an exclusive distribution deal allowing them to be the only restaurant with this exquisite (in my opinion), very special flavor of Mountain Dew.

The brand and flavor of soda served may not seem like an important issue when selecting a restaurant, but for a quick service or fast-casual restaurant where customers often opt to skip alcohol, soda is an easy way to be differentiated from competitors and increase revenues.

For instance, my favorite burger place in Durham offers Puck’s Sodas, a craft soda brand from New Jersey made with cane sugar. People love it; friends that normally wouldn’t touch a soda are going back for refills.

But if you think it’s just artisanal sodas bringing people into restaurants, you’re wrong. Most fast food chains offer a special or unique flavor of soda: Chick-fil-A has its’ heralded lemonade, Wendy’s serves up a proprietary line of carbonated beverages called Dave’s Cream Sodas, McDonald’s ushered in MIX by Sprite Tropic Berry last year, and both Moe’s Southwest Grill and PDQ feature Coca-Cola Freestyle machines with limited edition flavors, infusions, and combinations.

As both a soda lover and a market researcher, I’ve had my eye on these soda offerings and contemplated their value. For the most, part fast food restaurants provide similar offerings: a cheeseburger with all the toppings, a fried chicken sandwich, an amalgamation of Mexican ingredients packaged as the newest promotional item…and the list goes on. But in a world of same vs. same, exclusive soda brands and flavors are a point of differentiation.

Now, including an artisanal beverage in your restaurant’s product portfolio may not be a revolutionary strategy, but it is a small step toward building consumer preference and loyalty in a saturated or mature market.  So the next time you’re having a soda don’t just savor its sweetness and carbonation. Ask yourself, what can be my company or brand’s Baja Blast?  

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