December 18th, 2019 | By Mike Raven
Maria has a diverse background, having started her career on Wall Street as a derivatives trader for several prominent banks and hedge funds. More recently, she is known as a busy serial entrepreneur. She has founded several successful businesses including New York-based restaurants Tutto Il Giorno and Dopo La Spiaggia, and has even pioneered streaming video workouts as CEO of a global fitness brand. She holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in finance and entrepreneurial management and is especially involved with philanthropic causes and mentorship.
Mike: You claim Splash is a healthier choice and a “better for you” beverage. Why is that?
Maria: As a cancer survivor and Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) board member, I am acutely aware of the implications of diet and exercise as they relate to disease. We finally have some real data on these topics and organizations like the BCRF are funding more and more scientific research regarding prevention and what constitutes healthier choices we may make. We know that maintaining a healthy weight as well as reducing sugar intake may be even more meaningful than previously realized. Though we certainly won’t be receiving a Nobel Prize for mixology, I feel good about the fact that this product is certainly a giant step in the right direction for so many.
The reason I didn’t make it zero calories and sugar, is because I wanted it to be natural and most importantly, I wanted it to taste just as good as traditionally-made drinks. I personally have a strong aversion to the sweetener Stevia, and I knew that if Splash tasted “diety” or at all sub-par, then the masses would just not make the switch. I really wanted Splash to be impactful and I knew there was a giant hole in the market for a beverage like this.
Thanks to my partner, Hilary Pereria, who was a cocktail guru in the event space, our finished product tasted so good that I decided to not even point out the reduced calorie and sugar attributes to stadium-goers at first! I was actually afraid people may assume it would taste like other typical reduced-calorie beverages and they wouldn’t try it. Now, I am proud to loudly own the “better for you” moniker. Yes, Splash is a better choice, and yes, Splash also tastes amazing. Perhaps those early consumers have magically slimmed down a bit and don’t realize why!
Mike: How many flavors are in your portfolio?
Maria: We have five classic flavors in production: Margarita, Moscow Mule, Cosmopolitan, Bloody Mary and Mojito. We also make a custom flavor for the Yankees called “Grand Slam,” which they serve at stadium bars in large collector-edition logo cups. We have other classics in development, and we plan to do several collaborations with brands as well as some individuals who are known to have certain signature drinks that we will formulate and bottle for them.
Mike: I assume you oversee all of the production process?
Maria: Yes, we are intimately involved in the flavor formulation, procurement and all production runs. We source ingredients ourselves that are up to our quality standards (if you only knew how many ginger samples we have been through!) and we are present during bottling to ensure perfect taste. We also care a lot about the aesthetics of the bottle and we are proud to say we’ve won awards for design as well as taste. I wanted it to look great in any hotel room, on any bar and on any table for bottle service, or even right on the table at a high-end wedding. So, we are also present to make sure the gorgeous white bottles look perfect on the line as well.
Mike: Are they affordable for on-premise usage? What are the advantages?
Maria: Yes. Because of my background, I truly obsessed over a “how can I make our partners more money” point of view from day one. I knew that I needed to give real economic reasons for on-premise venues to use Splash and there are many!
First, Splash allows ANYONE to be able to pour a perfect drink. Our stadium partners tell me that this allows for employees who may be working a game as a second job and who may not be seasoned bartenders, to pour consistently perfect drinks like the pros. In my own restaurants, it also allows for our mixologists to have time they need to make their specialty drinks, since Splash takes care of the classics.
Another benefit is obviously speed. We can get through a crowd at intermission during a concert or convention fast, which means more revenue. What’s worse than not being able to serve every last paying customer? Additionally, when patrons know they have saved on calories/sugar, they are more inclined to “spend” those savings on a second cocktail or even another menu item, which translates to higher average checks. Hotel guests are inclined to spend more in rooms if our five-ounce“minis” are on the counter, since that also spurs a mini-bar spirit purchase when they know they can make a great drink easily. Splash also perfectly satisfies the growing trend of the non-alcohol, mocktail crowd, without the need to carry another product. Splash is a premium product, but as far as individual drink pricing goes, we try to keep the overall cost per ounce comparable to traditional ingredients. Besides the signature glass bottles that can be used for display, we also produce plastic gallon jugs and bag-in-a-box options to bring cost per ounce even lower.
Mike: Are they available nationwide and how can operators find them?
Maria: We have national distribution to over 2,000 retail stores and on-premise venues nationwide. We have capacity to grow rapidly and are ready to make on-premise a big focus.
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