Millennials love trying new things, and restaurants are catering to their desires.

If you’re grabbing dinner at Italian eatery Aunt Jake’s in New York City, you’ll see a wheel on your menu. It prompts you to choose a spirit, then choose between sweet or spicy, and finally, a garnish, produce, or syrup. The restaurant asks customers to trust them with the rest. Out comes a fancy, never-before tasted cocktail custom-made for the patron.

Restaurants are pulling out all the stops with their menus to attract new customers by impressing their taste buds with specialty cocktails and expert-curated wine menus. This is providing a big opportunity for wine and spirits producers. Here’s how you can capitalize on this trend.

The new drink menu for the new drinker

Gone are the days when customers would have to turn through pages upon pages of a wine menu to find what they wanted.

Restaurants are now moving toward “micro lists” that include a limited amount of choices, but are specially curated to complement the menu and offer diners only the best selection, which balances value, taste, and price.

Some restaurants give their wine menus a theme, such as only featuring family-owned wineries, or wines from a certain region.

Other restaurants put their recommendations for cocktails and food pairings right on the menu.

Millennial drinkers are looking for high-quality experiences when drinking their cocktails or sipping their wines, and great food can help enhance that.

Spirits, in general, are on the rise on menus — they’re up 5% year over year. Specialty cocktails are up 57% in 2018 at family-dining chains. Tequila mentions on menus are up 9.4%, whiskey is up 6.6%, and vodka is up 6%.

Menus get techy

Restaurants and bars are now offering their food and drink selections via tablets or iPads.

Uncorked claimed a 20% increase in wine sales for bottles that had photos of the labels and tasting notes on their digital menu. Brands can start using this to their advantage by providing interactive content for prospective customers to make an educated ordering decision.

What brands can do to be featured on restaurant drink menus

If you want your brand to appear more prominently on a restaurant’s menu, have your local sales representative or manager reach out to the beverage manager at some of your best-performing restaurants.

Before you reach out, take a fresh look at their menu and then suggest food pairings to go with your wines or cocktails.

If you have accounts that have digital menus, make sure your brands have photos, tasting notes, and more for the customer to interact with.

If you’re a family winery, do some research into which restaurants in your territories feature family wineries and then reach out and offer to do a tasting at the restaurant to expose customers to your product — and get the customers asking the owner to put it on the menu permanently.

Meredith Galante

Meredith Galante is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has been published in USA Today, amNewYork, Newsday, Square and more. She's interviewed then-Mayor Cory Booker, Ryan Seacrest, and other New Jersey folks who made their community better. She's covered breaking news, sports, features, and now frequently writes about small businesses.