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R&IEditorial Archives2002 — April 1 — Beverages

Main Squeeze
Fresh-squeezed or fresh-tasting concentrate, juices start the day right

Two commercial-grade electric juicers stay in near-constant motion every morning at Bryn Mawr College’s Erdman Dining Hall as students line up to squeeze their own fresh orange juice. Those in a hurry draw a quicker glass from a juice dispenser.

The Bryn Mawr, Pa., school’s fresh-squeezed juice fans are serious about their morning fix. “Once when both juicers were broken, we almost got killed for not replacing them immediately,” says Bernadette Chung, dining services director. “No matter how expensive oranges become, I can never drop fresh juice from the menu. It would be easier to drop bacon or eggs.”

Nor would she consider changing the juice brand served from dispensers without extensive taste testing by her customers. Satisfying students’ juice wishes pays off: Breakfast participation at the 1,100 all-girl’s school hovers at 50%.

Fresh-squeezed or fresh-tasting concentrate, juice remains a morning mainstay. A recent study by the Florida Department of Citrus shows that 75% of all commercial and noncommercial foodservice establishments served orange juice in 2001. Portion-pack juice was most common, at 42.2%, followed by frozen concentrate (27.5%), canned ready-to-serve (12.5%), fresh-squeezed purchased (6.2%) and squeezed-on-premises (3.5%).

Celebrating juice
Although labor and space issues make fresh-squeezed juice less common than dispenser varieties, when the fresh-squeezed beverage is offered, it creates serious fans. Regular customers phone in their fresh-juice orders at Seasons Cafe, the upscale servery at Celebration Health, a 60-bed hospital and fitness center in Celebration, Fla.

The juice bar, called Juice Sensations, does strong business from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (with a break from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.). Monthly revenues from juice and juice blends alone range from $2,000 to $2,500. The triangular 10-by-20-foot space turns out a stream of freshly blended fruit juices, yogurt smoothies, specialty coffees and the occasional milk shake. Two enclosed blenders, a wheat-grass extractor and a juicer anchor production needs, while a counter-height, top-opening refrigerated unit displays precut fruits and vegetables.

“We cater to everyone in the building, plus employees from nearby Disney buildings,” says Seasons Cafe Manager Jeannette Agront.

A key ingredient of any juice bar, though, is the juice equivalent of the barrista. “You need a staffer with a good personality who knows the nutritional side of the drinks,” Agront explains. “Because of the popularity of the juice bar, it’s a good idea to cross-train other employees in its operation.”

Celebration Health’s Juice Sensations serves simple combinations of fruit and vegetable juices as well as straight orange. Popular choices at $2.59 per 12-ounce serving include carrot-grape, apple-grape and carrot-apple.

More-complicated blends—called Juice Smoothies—menu at $2.85 per 24-ounce serving. Among the favorites: Papaya Paradise (papaya, orange juice and mango); Raspberry Jazz (raspberry puree, pineapple chunks, banana-apple juice and crushed ice); Tropical Teaser (banana, mango purée, pineapple chunks, coconut and crushed ice), and the signature Sunrise Celebration (mango chunks, banana, cubed pineapple, orange juice and crushed ice), For an additional 59 cents, customers can enhance drinks with add-ins such as ground flax seed, wheat germ, protein powder or extra fresh fruit.

More health-conscious customers also order wheat-grass shots ($1.25 per ounce) and wheat-grass cocktails (8 ounces of apple juice mixed with 4 ounces of wheat grass, at $2.39 for a 12-ounce cup).

Concentration nation
Fruit-juice concentrates allow operators to add more choice to menus without the time and labor involved in prepping whole fruit.

Leveraging the popularity of familiar orange juice brands helps drive sales as well. In January, Burger King began serving a single national brand of concentrated orange juice at its 8,500 U.S. units. An 8-ounce cup of reconstituted juice sells for 99 cents to $1.19, depending on location.

A similar strategy works at the University of California, Berkeley, where students requested that juice be served at every meal. Favorites include orange, grape, apple, guava and lemonade.

On the retail side, students spend up to $2.75 for 12 ounces of bottled fresh specialty juices, and $1.55 for 16 ounces of regular bottled juice. Bottled specialty and regular juices accounted for 18% of beverage sales during October 2001.

“Students buy juice because they think its healthier,” says Ruth Hickman, assistant director of campus restaurants.

Industry surveys concur. Dan Titus, president of Juice Gallery MultiMedia, a restaurant consulting firm in Chino Hills, Calif., and head of the Juice & Smoothie Association, says: “Our studies show that juice sales are taste driven. Teenagers and young adults through their mid-20s make up the primary market. They drink juice because it’s sweet and perceived as healthy.”

Fruity concoctions
For many foodservice operators, made-to-order juice-based drinks can win new converts, especially at locations with health-conscious populations. Test kitchens at the Florida Department of Citrus serve up tartly refreshing orange-, grapefruit-, lemon- and lime-based sips for spring and summer.

Citrus-ade combines a cup each of orange and grapefruit juices with syrup made from 2 cups water and a half cup sugar. An optional splash of lime and wedge of pink grapefruit complete the beverage.

A sparkling alternative blends 12 ounces orange juice concentrate, 6 ounces lemonade concentrate, 1 1/2 cups water with a liter of chilled carbonated water; garnish with orange rounds.

Warm citrus soothes in drink that heats 3 cups of orange juice, a cup of grapefruit juice, a quarter cup honey and a cinnamon stick.

Grapefruit spritzer starts with syrup made of 1 1/2 cups grapefruit juice, a quarter cup sugar and a cinnamon stick. The mixture is brought to boiling, simmered 5 minutes, then chilled. To serve, pour a third of a cup of syrup into an ice-filled 8-ounce glass, top off with ginger ale, and garnished with mint or edible flowers.

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