What food offering do you need to make a pub a success?

Food and pubs fit together perfectly.  People go out for a drink, and often opt for a snack at the same time.  Others seek a place for a relaxing evening out with a meal, or somewhere to eat when out and about exploring the countryside.  In towns, people will just as frequently go to a pub for a meal as to a restaurant or café.  Pubs are a place to socialise, and eating out is an integral part of that process.

In this post I share how to get your food offering right, and ‘food for thought’ for anyone thinking about running a pub! If you would like to talk to us about how we can support you in providing a great food offering as part of your pub business plan, call us on 01284 843 200.

Researching Your Pub Food Offering

Providing food can bring in considerable extra revenue to a pub landlord. The big question is always ‘What shall I put on the menu?’  Pub classics such as sandwiches, chips and burgers are always popular. This is quick, easy food that will be particularly popular with people in a hurry or wanting a snack.  Many landlords also opt for items like curries, pastas, pizzas and steaks. Heritage food is equally popular – traditional pub food such as Shepherds Pie; Roast dinners, Fish and Chips. A small selection of desserts such as ice cream, apple pie, and traditional puddings is also useful, likewise side orders and soups.

Pub companies such as Greene King can provide advice and suggestions based on their experience and knowledge of the business, but to be really successful when selling food you need to do your own research.  Take a look at what your competitors are selling and talk to your regular customers, asking them what type of food would be popular.  Look at your clientele – if you are aiming for a family market, then you will need to have a family menu with children’s portions.  If you believe that a gastro pub could be successful, then you have to look at a much more gourmet type of menu.  Casual dining is a growing sector of the catering business and is particularly well suited to pubs.  Bear in mind that your market at weekends may be different to your weekday market, and lunchtime market different to the evening.  When drawing up your menus, you need to cater for each specific market; so more than one menu may be required throughout the day or week.

In addition, if you are offering accommodation as well, you will need to think about breakfast menus.  Some pubs also make this available to ordinary customers as well, especially in tourist areas or busy towns where the ‘business breakfast’ can provide a lucrative income.

Offering Choice And Variety

Whatever your food offering, there are certain key considerations that every pub landlord has to bear in mind. Modern consumers are seeking quality food. The vast array of TV programmes about food and dining reflect the growing interest in different types of food, especially local, seasonal food. Ethnic food too is increasingly popular not just Indian or Chinese, but Thai, Japanese, Mexican, French, Italian to name but a few.  A mix of ethnic and traditional British fare will satisfy most people.

All menus should include vegetarian and vegan options.  These are frequently sought nowadays not just by people who are committed to these dietary options, but the general public as well. Catering for this market is much easier than many people think. Simply offering Cauliflower cheese or a salad is not enough.  Consumers are looking for variety and choice on the menu, so consider including vegetable curries, pies, casseroles, pizzas, or ethnic variations. 

A specials menu is a useful addition as it enables you to vary the menu quickly and easily, taking into account any seasonal variations or sudden gluts of local produce that become available.

Food Safety

Health and safety, and food standards, is vital in the kitchen environment, ensuring that your customers receive food that has been prepared under strict guidelines that is fit to eat; and that your staff are protected too. Whether you are planning to cook yourself, or employ a chef, everyone who comes in contact with food will need the appropriate level of training. Breweries and pub companies like Greene King offer training courses to ensure you get this right and can help you navigate health and safety guidelines and food safety inspections.

Under the terms of the Food Safety Act, any organisation that is providing food needs to provide allergy information to anyone who asks for it.   For some people, eating the wrong type of food can cause serious illness and even death.  This is particularly true when it comes to peanuts or nuts of various kinds. Others people may need to know if food is glucose free, or contains additives.  All menus should be carefully scrutinised and lists created showing any food which might be a danger making sure that your staff are fully aware of the ingredients so that they can talk to customers with confidence.  By having this information at hand, it increases the potential opportunity for customers to eat at your pub, rather than going somewhere else.

Excellent Customer Service

Providing good, high quality food will encourage repeat visits and ensure that your pub’s name becomes well known in the locality.  But to achieve that reputation, good food needs to be matched with good service.  Tables have to be kept cleared, food served promptly, quickly and efficiently by staff who can talk about the menu.  Understanding the items on the menu and became able to advise or recommend items, can be a useful means of upselling. 

Whatever your menu choices, take care not to make it too large.  The larger your menu, the more complex it becomes for customers to study and make their choice of meal.  It also ties up more of your money in supplies since you have to have all the ingredients available as long as that menu is in force. There is nothing that annoys customers more, than making a choice and then finding the waiter coming back and saying ‘It’s off the menu today.’ 

It’s also much better to have a reputation for doing a few things really well, than a lot of things poorly. 

What To Expect From Pub Company Food Packages

Depending on the brewery or pub company you partner with, there will generally be lots of support available to help you get your food offering right. Here at Greene King we have a number of packages our landlords can choose from, which enables them to take advantage of the economies of scale provided by a large company like ourselves.

As well as purchasing power, landlords can also take advantage of an extremely easy way to manage their food offering. You can choose from different menu options and get everything you need delivered as you need it, including food, allergen information, point of sale material and crockery. All you need to do is cook it and sell it!

Providing food can be a very useful adjunct to your business – but you need to get it right.  Identify your audience, work out a menu that fits that customer base and deliver it consistently.  By providing high quality food, preferably local, and offering quick, efficient service; food can provide a good long term source of revenue.