Thursday, 20 February 2014

In any pub kitchen, if the team’s doing its job properly...Fuller's Tenants Extra, February 2014

In any pub kitchen, if the team’s doing its job properly, there is plenty of attention paid to the plates leaving the kitchen to be served to customers. Ensuring that meals are up to the required standard in terms of presentation and portion size is basic kitchen practice. How many pay the same attention to the plates coming back, though?

One award-winning licensee, a trained chef who has run his own village pub for more than a decade, confessed to me recently that he can become a bit obsessive about checking plates at the end of the meal. “We work hard on every dish, so if most of the food comes back, you want to go out and ask the customer what was wrong,” he said.

“However, if you see the same accompaniment coming back time and again, such a vegetable dish or side salad, it’s a sign you need to have a rethink.” At this time of year, as the days gradually get longer and the first signs of spring start to appear, the menu is often in as much need a refresh as the rest of the pub.

There are sound financial reasons for reducing the amount of waste generated in the kitchen. WRAP, the organisation that works to reduce the amount of waste the UK generates, estimates that £357m worth of food is thrown away by pubs annually, with the equivalent of almost one meal in every six wasted.

One simple way to reduce waste is to give customers more choice about their accompaniments – offer a choice of salad or veg, rice as an alternative to potatoes, and ask customers to pick the side orders they want. That may seem obvious, but surveys show that many customers are reluctant to ask pubs and restaurants to vary dishes listed on the menu – which helps explain the levels of waste found by WRAP’s research.

Another way to keep the menu fresh and appealing is to make sure it reflects current eating out trends. Classic pub dishes can be given a ‘sparkle’ by keeping them on-message with consumers: 

·         Authenticity, provenance, and local dishes continue to have a strong appeal – dishes from bangers & mash to the cheeseboard can benefit from working with suppliers to source produce with provenance;

·         Home baking - bring the ‘Great British Bake-off’ phenomenon to your menu by offering everything from home-made pies to traditional sponge puds. Home-made products are also a food way to use up ingredients;

·         Sharing platters – snacks and sharers are popular during everything from pub quizzes to TV sport, Adapt food from other parts of the menu such as chicken wings, sausages, cold meat and cheese, and serve with bread and dips;

·         Spice it up - add popular cuisine styles such as Indian, Thai and Mexican by spicing up you sandwich menu with wraps and tortillas.

As always, customers will only know how the menu’s changed if you tell them. Use chalkboards, posters and, of course, well-informed bar and serving staff to drive interest.
This column appears in the February 2014 edition of Fuller's Tenants Extra

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