Monday, 25 February 2013

When I feel the occasional need to offer a pub a spot of constructive criticism...Fuller's Tenants Extra February 2013

When I feel the occasional need to offer a pub a spot of constructive criticism or comment on a recent experience on these pages, I normally preface any remarks with “of course, this wasn’t a Fuller’s pub.” There’s no need to bite the hand that feeds you.

Sadly, in this case of my most recent experience, I can’t say that. One Saturday lunchtime in January, Mrs P and I were out and about on various errands and fancied a sandwich. We  popped into a Fuller’s tenancy, and having obtained a pint of Jack Frost and a glass of the house white, we sat down to look at the menu.

We read it carefully, turned it over, read it again, and finally held it up to the light, just to double check that we hadn’t missed anything. No sandwiches. Fair enough, we live in a democracy and there’s no legal obligation on any pub to serve sandwiches  - but it seemed a bit odd.

While we were rethinking our lunchtime strategy, I had a bit of a delve in the table-top leaflet dispenser. A second, smaller menu emerged, entitled ‘light bites and smaller portions’. This, I thought hopefully, might be just the sort of document to list sandwiches. This proved not to be the case.
However, by this stage I decided I’d got the hang of the pub’s approach to its food offer, and I investigated the dispenser further. A third leaflet emerged, and this time we’d hit the jackpot – the sandwich menu.

I was clearly not the only confused customer. While we were in the pub, a couple of families with fairly young children arrived. One of the mums went to the bar and began to place a complex order which involved a number of half-portions of dishes on the main menu. Halfway through the barman stopped her and explained that they could only offer smaller portions of certain dishes.

“Er…we have got a light bite menu…er.. somewhere” he said, shuffling various papers fruitlessly on the bar. Eventually, I handed the customer the copy from my table, and she headed back to for some difficult renegotiating with the children.

Now, I know that top menu design gurus will tell you that including too much information can be confusing. However, the pub in question offers around a dozen main courses and a few extras. It wouldn’t be a major challenge to include the entire food offer, incuding the sandwiches and light bites, on a single menu.

I’m not naming names, and as it happens, the sandwiches were freshly made and excellent quality. I had the sausage and onion, and Mrs P the cod goujons, since you ask. But, it’s worth bearing in mind that the British Sandwich Association estimates that the out-of-home sandwich market is worth about £6bn a year. If customers can even find your sandwich menu, how will you get your slice of the business?

  This 'Kitchen Porter' column appears in the February 2013 issue of Fuller's Tenants Extra

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