Monday, 30 July 2012

I find myself at a slight disadvantage - Fullers Tenants Extra July 2012

I find myself at a slight disadvantage, thanks to the illustrious company I’m in this month. With Tenant’s Extra bookended by some of the nation’s sporting greats on the front and back covers, a glance at my picture will confirm that not only am I not worthy to tie their bootlaces, but also that bending over to do so would pose a grave risk to my spinal health.

Even so, I’ve been looking forward to this summer’s sporting bonanza just as much as the next armchair athlete. A pint in hand and football, cricket, and Olympic events ranging from taekwondo to Greco-Roman wrestling on the big screen – what more could you want? Well, a sandwich to accompany my beer doesn’t seem too much to ask. 

New research into the pub trade by investment bank Nomura shows that what they call ‘solus drinking’ and what the rest of us call ‘going for a beer’ is in decline. In other words, drink-only occasions are decreasing, while food-and-drink occasions, if not exactly booming, are at least stable.    

However, I watched one of England’s Euro 2012 group matches in a Surrey pub which was rammed to the gunnels with customers who were solus drinking like there was no tomorrow. The licensee was clearly caught out by demand, with the shortage of bar staff compounded by the need to deploy one of them on permanent glass collecting and washer-loading duties. 

So when one lucky punter made it to the front of the queue and enquired if there was any chance of a bowl of chips to go with his pint, the harassed licensee just pointed to a chap in a white shirt and fetching checked trousers shouting noisily at the screen. “We’re too busy to serve food during the match,” he said. “That’s my chef - my best-paid member of staff and the only one of us not working.”

High drinks sales during big sporting events are a Holy Grail for many pubs – but it needn’t be at the expense of food. There will be big national occasion during the London 2012 games as Team GB chases the medals, and many of us will gather in pubs to watch them. With a bit of forward planning, it should be possible to offer some simple pub grub as well as a well-kept pint. It would be a shame if all those chefs had nothing to do.
This 'Kitchen Porter' column originally appeared in Fullers Tenants Extra, July 2012

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