Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Planning ahead is vital for any business ... Fuller's Tenants Extra August 2014

Planning ahead is vital for any business, but it can also leave licensees with something of a split personality. At this time of year, all the forward focus is on autumn and winter, with pubs urged to start planning hearty stews and pies for the menu, pre-order their winter warmer ales and, of course, start filling up the diary with those all-important Christmas bookings.

Front-of-house – otherwise known as the real world – it’s a very different story. If there’s any justice, the sun is shining, the street outside rings to the joyous cries of children enjoying the school summer holidays, and the bar is packed with pale customers wearing ill-chosen t-shirts and inappropriate shorts.

Having geared up for the summer campaign back in May, it’s no surprise if pubs’ seasonal  shine has faded a bit by the time August rolls around, but now is the peak time for summer sales.  Whether it’s tourists hoping to experience traditional pub culture, office staff hoping to get in a few long lunches while the sun shines, or regulars aiming to make the most of summer evenings and weekends while they still can, it’s worth brushing down the garden tables and servicing the ice machine to keep customers coming back.

There are, of course, never any guarantees with the British weather, but in food terms, there’s plenty you can do to keep the offer fresh for a final push on summer food sales through August and into September:
  • Lighten up – chips with everything is fine, but offer lighter alternatives to the spuds as menu choices. Steak with a salad or bangers with savoury rice instead of mash will appeal to customers looking for lighter summer dishes as well as adding a seasonal touch to the pub food classics;
  • Seaside specials - freshly caught grilled or pan fried fish is popular in summer, and best value varies according to what the fishing boats are landing. Build flexibility onto summer seafood menus with specials boards and catch-of-the-day dishes, and stay touch with suppliers on which species are on offer;
  • Focus on families – finding somewhere relaxed to eat with the kids is the holy grail for many parents at this time of year. Make sure children’s menus are available on tables alongside the main menu, and promote your family food offer prominently on banners and boards;
  • Chill out the wine list – ice cold whites and rosés are likely to be more popular than robust  reds during the summer;  reflect this on the wine list, and if you include drink recommendation alongside dishes on the menu, update these to factor in the warmer days;
  • Take it outside - if you’re lucky enough to have an outside area big enough to cook in, supplement the Sunday lunch session with a barbecue. Cooking steaks and burgers outside shouldn’t affect the main kitchen, and will appeal to families and groups who can’t face a full-on roast;  
  • Fruity finish – fresh fruit salads and fruit flavoured ice creams will have more appeal to some customers than pies and crumbles during the warm weather. Make sure the dessert menu reflects summer trends.           
This column originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Fuller’s Tenants Extra  

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