Pairing food & drink within quick service restaurants

Matching food with a complementary drink could work wonders for your business, if done well

With eating and drinking now worth almost a staggering £90bn a year, it is important that businesses really stand out from their competition. Quick service restaurants are forever thinking of ways to wow their customers by offering that little bit extra when it comes to service. Those offering takeaway and delivery are no exception to the rule, but now is the time to really up your game.

Pairing food with a complementary drink could work wonders for your business, if done well. Matching drinks carefully to your food offering and suggesting them to your customers could not only help you sell more in each area, but can better enhance a guest’s experience. It can also inspire customers to try something different, something sensational. When you shout about your food and drink, make sure that the offering you have is good and that it offers customers a wide choice. This will give you credibility and added value.


Things to consider for your restaurant

When matching food and drink, ensure you are keeping up with hot new trends. This could give your business the edge. Maybe even go a bit more premium with your soft drinks offering. You never know, it could be the making of your business!

Five golden rules when it comes to food and drink matching

Weight: Ensure the weight of the food matches the weight of the drink

Intensity: Flavours should work together in harmony to avoid the food or drink over powering one another

Acidity: Acidic drinks work well with sweet, oily/fatty and salty foods as they cut through and contrast

Heat: Hot and spicy dishes can be cooled by sweeter/smoother style drinks

Sweetness: Drinks should be sweeter when paired with sweet food or the flavours will appear bland

Balance is key

When pairing food and drink, balance is the key when it comes to offering the perfect matches: neither drink nor food should overpower each other. You should look to pair food and drink that have similar characteristics. For example, acidic drinks are well paired with salty, oily and fatty foods as the acidity cuts through the fat and balances out the taste.


Soft drinks with food

Pairing soft drinks with food is another important one to think about, particularly in the quick service restaurant sector and those offering takeaway and delivery options. Soft drinks are the number one drink consumed with food. Wine and beer are also significant as they tap into different needs.

Seven in 10 food occasions involve a soft drink

Traditional food pairing can be achieved across all drink categories including wine, beer and soft drinks. For those thinking about giving it a go, here’s some handy tips to get you going.

Traditional food pairing can be achieved across all drink categories including wine, beer and soft drinks.

For those thinking about giving it a go, here’s some handy tips to get you going.

Oily & filling

Oily and filling dishes such as fish and chips need a palate cleanser.

  1. Beer: The subtle caramel with bitterness in classic lager cuts through the meat. The crisp, carbonated bubbles in lager will cleanse the palate
  2. Wine: A light bodied white such as a Chablis or Chenin Blanc cuts through oily dishes. Fizzy wine is great for palate cleansing with oilier dishes
  3. Soft drinks: Sweet lemonade pairs well as the light bubbles helps to cut through oily foods while refreshing and cleansing the palette

Rich & heavy

Rich and heavy dishes need rich, full-bodied drinks.

  1. Beer: The balanced bitterness of pale ale will cut through rich dark meat while the sweet malty flavours will pair well the sweetness of a juicy steak
  2. Wine: Juicy ripe reds such as Merlot and Rioja complement simple red meats while full bodied reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon are perfect for richer meatier dishes
  3. Soft drinks: The high intense and rich caramel notes in cola complements red meat perfectly while the higher acidity cuts through any fat


Salt and acidity need to work in harmony with smoky dishes to enhance the meal

  1. Beer: Bitterness in the red or amber ale will cut through the smoky foods while the sweet malty flavours will complement any sticky BBQ sauces
  2. Wine: Zinfandel Sauvignon is the perfect partner for smoky dishes as it is bold & jammy. Consider chilling red wine when serving smoky BBQ dishes outside to cool the overall experience
  3. Soft drinks: Cola pairs well with smoky dishes as the smoky savouriness becomes enhanced. There is a good blend of sweetness with highly flavoured smoky dishes

Salty & savoury

White meat dishes need an acidic based drink to balance any fat in the meat and cleanse the mouth.

  1. Wine: A full-bodied white or a medium bodied red will pair perfectly salty dishes. Consider a richer Chardonnay (California or Australia), Pinot Noir from California or New Zealand and a Zinfandel
  2. Soft drinks: Full flavour juice drinks pair well with salty and savoury dishes. The sweetness and fruity flavours of juices enhances plain savoury dishes while also neutralising the palette from high salt levels

Creamy & rich

Rich, creamy dishes require drinks with moderate levels of tannin to increase drying sensation to contrast the creaminess of the dish

  1. Beer: Light cool lagers complement creamy and rich dishes. The crisp, carbonated bubbles in lager will cleanse the palate.
  2. Wine: The wines need to be light so as not to create too heavy a meal, so dry aromatic whites such as Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc work well, as do herby Italian reds such.

Aromatic Thai

Aromatic dishes usually contain strong fragrant herbs and spices which need complementing with fruit based drinks

  1. Beer: Fruit beer complements the fragrant ingredients in aromatic dishes, combining in harmony to deliver a stronger taste
  2. Wine: Earthy red wines match well as the fruit and earthy notes balance the spicier aromatic food notes. Malbec and Merlot work particularly well
  3. Soft drinks: Exotic juice-based drinks with a mango or pineapple base, or cooling ice tea drinks are the perfect partner for aromatic dishes as they balance the complex fragrant herbs in the food

Sweet & Sour

The drinks need to balance and not over power the sugar and salt within Sweet & Sour dishes. Look for drinks with similar ingredients as the food such as ginger and plum

  1. Beer: Fruit beer complements sweet & sour dishes as they work in harmony to deliver an intense fruity taste
  2. Wine: Aromatic whites such as Riesling and Pinot Gris for sweet-and-sour dishes work well as the complex dish needs a simpler wine that balances sugar and salt
  3. Soft drinks: Ginger beer and ginger ale works well with sweet & sour dishes. The peppery finish complements the herbs and sauces within Chinese dishes

Hot & spicy:

Hot & spicy dishes require drinks to cool and neutralise the palette. Spice enhances drinks flavours so they need to be more neutral

  1. Beer: Wheat beer accompanies hot & spicy dishes as the creaminess of the hops cuts through the spice & complex flavours
  2. Wine: Wine needs to be earthy and fruity to complement hot spices. As spice makes wine taste sharper, wine needs to be strong in fruit flavours to balance out tastes
  3. Soft drinks: Soft drinks can be used as a palette cleanser. Think about traditional sorbet flavours such as lemon and mango. Use soft drinks full of cooling juicy fruit flavours to balance hot & spicy sauces

Light & crispy

Light and crisp dishes such as salads need a light refreshing drink to accompany as so not to over power

  1. Beer: Low ABV beers go well with salads, try something with an afternote of fruit. Pale ale and lager with these fruit notes match well
  2. Wine: Crisp white that is clear and light is a great partner with salad. Choose a wine that is lower in ABV so there is a good match in the weight of the wine and food
  3. Soft drinks: Lightly sparkling juices and infused softs complement light meals and snacks. Consider pear and raspberry based drinks with a soft undertone

Sweet desserts

Choose a drink that is either sweeter than the dessert to allow the drink to stand out, or choose a drink that contrasts and is bitter

  1. Beer: Bitter IPA pairs well with chocolate-based pudding as the full bodied bitterness cuts through sweetness
  2. Wine: Choose a wine that’s sweeter than your dessert - this will allow the wine to stand up to the food rather than coming across as overly bitter and acidic. A sweet, rich, nutty Port with a rich cheese such as Stilton. Ice cold wine with intense fruit flavours to pair with tarts and pies
  3. Soft drinks: Traditional hot drinks like tea and coffee often pair well with desserts but still soft drinks with fruit-based notes such as cherry, apple and raspberry can also complement other dessert items