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You'll Never Drink Alcohol at Restaurants the Same Way Again

Ordering and enjoying a drink with your food will be a very different experience.

The restaurant industry has been undergoing major changes in operations to adjust to the new post-pandemic landscape. What was once the norm, like dining in a crowded restaurant, may never look the same again. At least not for the foreseeable future.

Sales of alcoholic beverages have been a glimmer of opportunity for many restaurants during lockdown. Numerous states have subsequently changed regulations on alcohol sales to allow for restaurants to recoup some of their revenue losses more easily.

Other changes in the way alcohol is served in restaurants are on the horizon, as the service industry undergoes various phases of reopening across the country. Restaurants have to rethink and rebuild the dining experience from the ground up, and beverage services are changing alongside food.

The era of to-go cocktails is here

Coronavirus restrictions ushered in some of the biggest changes to liquor laws since the repeal of Prohibition. Laws on cocktails and bottled alcohol to-go have seen a major overhaul—you can now get a to-go cocktail or a bottle of spirits in more than 30 states (pre-pandemic, the number of states that allowed it was fewer than 10), while some are considering making the looser liquor laws permanent.

With dine-in revenues reduced significantly, to-go cocktails present a good supplemental solution for restaurants who are offering takeout. Chris Saenz, general manager and wine director at 2120, an eatery voted one of Seattle's best new restaurants, told Nation's Restaurant News that delivery is quickly overtaking the dine-in space. To take advantage of this opportunity, him and his team are offering an array of to-go cocktails, bottled and complete with custom labels.

Other restaurants have relied on selling bottled wine and beer with food orders, which has helped with their cashflow.

Ordering drinks while dining in gets a makeover

Dining-in operations are changing how they offer drinks to customers as well. When ordering wine at a restaurant, you likely won't be getting refills in the same glass you just used, and drinks in pitchers, as well as straws, are likely to be banned from most establishments. 

Restaurants are also dealing with breakdowns in the alcohol supply chain, so you can expect wine lists to be a lot more narrow in the future.

Drinks will likely be order from single-use menus, just like food. Some restaurants are implementing QR codes at tables, so you'll be able to look at a digital wine and cocktail list on your phone, which is less wasteful paper-wise. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest food news delivered straight to your inbox.

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Mura Dominko
Mura is ETNT's Executive Editor, leading the coverage of America's favorite restaurant chains, grocery stores, and viral food moments. Read more about Mura