Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The world has got smaller, they like to tell us....Fuller's Tenants Extra April 2013

The world has got smaller, they like to tell us. While that may not be a proposition that would stand up to rigourous testing with a tape measure, it’s undoubtedly true that the boom in global travel over the past few decades has broadened our horizons, in culinary terms as much as any other.

Britain, and London in particular, has long been a haven for world cuisine, fuelled in part by our long-standing habit of sailing off to foreign parts and planting flags on the beaches of places that took our fancy.  

Deen Mahomet, who hailed from Bihar in Northern India and served in the Bengal branch of the British East India Army as a surgeon, opened the Hindostanee Coffee House in Portman Square in 1809. This promised “the greatest epicures to be unequalled to any curries ever made in England, served with choice wines.”

A century later in 1908, Chung Koon, formerly a ship's chef on the Red Funnel Line, opened Maxim's in Soho, the first mainstream Chinese restaurant in Britain.

Today, within two minutes walk of my front door in suburban South London, I can find both  Indian and Chinese food, as well as excellent Turkish kebabs and wonderful British fish and chips – although the chippy is owned by the same Cantonese family that run the Chinese takeaway.

Extend the radius to a five minute walk and you can add in Thai, Portugese, Italian in the form of pizza, and chicken fried in the unique styles of several different southern states of the USA.

The exact range of cuisines will vary depending on the location, but there will be few pubs whose customers don’t have an increasingly exotic range of choice from restaurants, takeaways and, increasingly, home delivery specialists. It pays to have an occasional stroll around the nearest town centre, or just make a scan of the local business directory to see what you menu is competing with.

This shouldn’t be seen as a threat, but an opportunity. It’s relatively simple to meet customers’ tastes for global cuisine alongside a more traditional pub grub offer. Here’s just a few ideas:

·         Curry night: Most branded pubs have a curry night toward the end of the week, Make yours a Monday or Tuesday and drive trade at a less busy time

·         Get saucy: There are some Indian and Oriental cooking sauces available through wholesalers and cash & carries. These can make menu staples like chicken and fish much more versatile without the need for specialist skills in the kitchen

·         Spice it up: Specialist spice mixes such as Moroccan or Chinese can simply add an exotic touch to dishes such as lamb and pork

·         Theme nights: Test the market for new menus by holding a theme night celebrating Italian, Chinese and other cuisines. Themed music and appropriately dressed staff all add to the occasion

Foodservice consultant Horizons has identified Japanese, Brazilian, Lebanese and Caribbean brands in its ‘ones to watch’ list of growing restaurants. It’s only going to get more global out there – are you ready to compete?
This Kitchen Porter column appears in the April 2013 issue of Fuller's Tenants Extra . 

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