Thursday, September 23, 2010

Volume 5, Number 26: The Restaurant Diet Soda Dilemma... and Possible Solutions

Last night, I was thinking about how restaurants tend to be very limited in terms of diet sodas you can choose from (they usually have either Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke, but not much else). I dealt with this issue while eating at a few different restaurants during my vacation earlier this month. On most occasions, I had to have a regular soda because the only diet soda being offered was Diet Coke (which I dislike, to say the least).

You may know that sodas are dispensed in restaurants by mixing carbonated water with a concentrated syrup. And I got to thinking last night, what if you took the sweetener out of the syrup and put it in the carbonated water instead? And then, what if the fountain was hooked up to two different carbonated waters (one with high fructose corn syrup in it and the other containing my preferred aspartame/acesulfame potassium blend)? And finally, at the fountain, the customer could indicate whether they wanted the regular or diet version of a soda just by pressing a button or flipping a switch. In particular, it would allow diners to have the diet version of any regular soda being served at the restaurant, including examples that otherwise aren't available, such as:
  • Diet Mug Root Beer. Today, restaurants that serve Pepsi products will offer Mug Root Beer but not Diet Mug Root Beer.
  • Fanta Zero (orange soda). Most restaurants that serve Coke products offer Fanta orange soda--but I've never seen the "zero calorie" version of that particular soda (not at the supermarkets I shop at, anyway--Coke's web site says it does exist, though). My soda fountain idea would allow a diner to make one.
  • Diet Dr. Pepper--I know that Arby's serves it but I don't know of any other restaurant that does.
  • Here's a bonus for all those who actually liked the "new" Coke back in 1985: As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, if you took the aspartame out of Diet Coke and added high fructose corn syrup to it, you'll get that short-lived formula (also known as "Coke II"). So any restaurant serving Coke products could conceivably sell that particular formula using the unsweetened Diet Coke syrup/high fructose corn syrup-sweetened carbonated water mix.
After some searching the web, I've found that Coca-Cola has been piloting a new fountain dispenser called the "Freestyle" that dispenses over 100 brands of soda. Now that could be a solution... although after reading on the Coca-Cola Freestyle Facebook page about how expensive it is to build and maintain these Freestyle machines, I'd just as soon wish that they'd make a relatively cheap fountain that dispensed 12 or 20 different varieties. Choosing from 106 different sodas--potentially including ones that aren't available in local supermarkets--appeals to me, but right now I'll be happy with being able to choose from 5 or 6 different diet sodas.

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