I'm a freelance beer, food and pubs writer, as well as an accredited Beer Sommelier. These are a mix of original musings and experiences, as well as some columns originally published elsewhere. All my opinions are subject to radical alteration after another pint.
Saturday, 1 December 2012
The illicit appeal of a mid-afternoon pint is still very strong - Fuller's Tenants Extra, November 2012
The illicit appeal of a mid-afternoon pint is still very strong for
those of us who learnt our drinking habits in the days when the licensing laws
appeared to have been calculated to require pubs to close at more or less the
exact point you wanted another drink.
Not, I hasten to add, that I have very many opportunities to while away
the afternoon in the pub, but I still like to remind young upstarts that, like bank
holidays and universal suffrage, all-day opening is a hard-won freedom that
should never be taken for granted.
At this point, I know there will be a few older hands cursing me,
kicking the dog, and recalling the days when a licensee could get a few hours’
break from the daily grind by calling “time” and putting the bolts across the
door. I don’t underestimate the long hours and hard work that running a
successful 21st century pub involves.
It’s not simply more hours, but a more diverse offer as well. Increased competition
as well as changes in consumer eating habits that mean we ‘graze’ more, mean that pub food, in particular, has
required a rethink.
From Sunday lunch to sharing platters, pubs need to cater for a wider
range of expectations. During National Curry Week in October, I was lucky
enough to spend an evening at Fuller’s pub The Red Lion, in Barnes, eating an
authentic meal that would have put most ‘specialist’ Indian restaurants in the
area to shame.
It’s not just food, of course. New figures from the Association of
Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) show that pubs sell more coffee than the
specialist coffee chains, with 3.6m cups sold each week.
Experts forecast that the need for a more diverse operation will
continue. Analyst Horizons believes that the high fixed costs of running a food
business means that outlets which effectively run several food formats from the
same site are best placed to thrive. That may sound too complicated, but a
stroll through the average town centre shows how many needs a pub can meet:
café – hot drinks, toast andbacon
sandwiches or the full English if there’s enough demand, to eat in or take
shop – with a menu of specialist teas and coffees, along with a few packaged
snacks such as muffins and flapjacks, pubs can keep the morning coffee and
afternoon tea market happy.
bar – a simple sandwich menu and some sandwich bags could boost lunchtime trade.
meals – a kids’ menu of burgers, fish and chicken will appeal to parents
looking for a change from fast food.
restaurant – pub food remains the nation’s favourite style of dining for
consumers eating out
·Late night menu – if customers head for the kebab shop at closing
time, a simple range of quick-to-cook hot snacks will keep them in the pub
while they wait for a taxi.
Each pub has
to make its own decisions based on staffing, facilities and local demand – but
if you don’t try, how will you ever know what the potential for extra trade is?
This column appears in the November 2012
issue of Fuller's Tenants Extra