Large restaurant brands today are drowning in data but thirsty for meaning. It’s easy for food and beverage directors to feel lost in the vast sea of positive and negative social media reviews about their menus.

To help clarify all this social feedback, newBrandAnalytics (nBA) just released a report highlighting the top beverage trends that are driving guest loyalty. This research shows how restaurants and hotels can use their online feedback, as well as their competitor’s social data, to ride the waves of the latest beverage trends to increase customer loyalty.

 nBA’s experts analyzed 40,000 social media reviews from 100 of the hottest U.S. restaurants, and isolated those mentions that included beverage references. As you’ll see below, we then separated meaningful from non-meaningful insights to identify specific trending beverage flavors that are driving guest loyalty.

So which wines, cocktails, beers and non-alcoholic beverages are sure to bring guests back for more? (read more…)

High-end whiskey, fresh fruit and surprising spices are likely to fill more cocktail glasses this year, as a few trends come together to shape the spirits menu. Belt-tightening consumers cut down on drinking at bars and restaurants last year, and the trend appears to be continuing in the first few months of 2014, according to a recent Technomic report, but there are some exceptions, including craft beers and high-end whiskeys.

Delving deeper, a social media analysis from newBrandAnalytics shows consumers are clamoring for fresh fruity drinks like guava mojitos, mango margaritas and most anything with a hint of ginger. Those flavors, which in the past might have been seasonal, are rising in popularity year-round, possibly because winter-weary patrons want to feel like they’re on vacation, says Marketing Manager Jess Knight.

Martinis are proving to have staying power, while margaritas and mojitos are finding growing legions of fans, but in all three categories the common denominators are fruit and other fresh ingredients, according to the newBrandAnalytics report, which is an analysis of the things people were posting and tweeting last year about 100 of the country’s hottest restaurants. (read more…)

When each of his grandchildren was born, Francis Ford Coppola wrote them a song. He crafted each heartfelt ditty especially for each child, with details about her name or personality. The acclaimed director and winery proprietor puts a similar emphasis on family when it comes to his wine business, calling on his family members for inspiration and even to design labels and marketing campaigns. Coppola sat down to discuss his success in the wine business during an event Tuesday night at the AFI Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Md.

Coppola’s family has a history of winemaking in America, beginning in New York’s Italian Harlem, where “my grandfather would get together with some of the paisan from the neighborhood …. and they would order maybe half a boxcar of grapes from the Napa Valley, no doubt from Cesare Mondavi, who was Robert Mondavi’s father and was in the business of supplying grapes for the immigrants around the country to make their own wine,” Coppola said. (read more…)

It used to be that the word “pairings” automatically turned our thoughts and palates to wine, but the rise in craft beer production, small breweries and brewpubs has brought food and beer pairings to the forefront. About 1,200 of the 2,700 U.S. craft breweries are brewpubs, many of which are honing the art of finding the perfect brew to go with at least some of the dishes on the menu, says Julia Herz of the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo.

Beer is gaining an ever-bigger place at the table when it comes to America’s foodie culture, as evidenced by the rise in beer-related shows on the Food Network, including a recent episode of “Chopped” that challenged chefs to create appetizer, entree and dessert to go with three different beer styles.

“Craft beer picks up where wine leaves off,” Herz says. Americans first learned about pairings in the era of Julia Child, but American dining has grown leaps and bounds beyond that kind of classic French cuisine and many of today’s spicier flavor palates pair perfectly with beer, for a few reasons, she says. (read more…)

As craft beer continues to gain prominence with both consumers and culinary types, retailers are increasing their stocks of popular local and regional brews and restaurants are investing more into craft beer with diversified offerings and special pairing menus. The increase in sales of craft beer and the continued attention these beers get from chefs, brewers and restaurants suggest that craft brewing is more than just a fleeting trend, and knowledge of fermentation and brewing is quickly becoming just as important as wine expertise in the restaurant world.

To keep up with the growing demand for beer education, the Culinary Institute of America is partnering with Brooklyn Brewery to develop a small brewery on the college’s Hyde Park, N.Y., campus. The facility, slated to open in summer 2015, will be located in the school’s new student union and dining facility, which is currently under construction.

The brewing facility will help the CIA expand its beer curriculum, which currently “is sort of like what a homebrewer would do at home or in his garage … this will allow us to teach brewing in a more professional setting,” said Waldy Malouf, senior director of special projects for the CIA. (read more…)