Tuesday, 9 September 2014

There aren’t many places where people regard you with deep suspicion .... Fuller's Tenants Extra, March 2014

There aren’t many places where people regard you with deep suspicion when you offer them free food and drink, but in my experience industry shows are high on the list. Faced with a room full of suppliers keen to persuade them to stock their particular brand of pork scratching or herbal liqueur, most licensees are reluctant to accept anything handed to them for fear they’ve committed themselves to a contract.

So, when I recently found myself manning a beer and food matching stand at a series of pub roadshows, I had an uphill struggle to persuade some of the licensees walking purposefully past me and attempting to avoid eye contact that all I wanted them to down was sample some of my suggested pairings.

However, I’m pleased to say that once they gave it a go, almost all the several hundred licensees enjoyed the food matches I’d suggested for some very different beers. However, very few of them had tried food pairings in their own pub, whether with beer or wine, which suggests the trade is still missing an opportunity.

Customers eating out at the pub are after an experience more special than they could have at home. A few well-chosen matches from the beer range or wine list will make the meal more memorable – and if it’s done right, can be very profitable for the pub too. A couple trading up from their usual bottle of the house wine to three different wines-by-the-glass or a beer with each course will have spent more and still go home happy.

To get you started, here are some suggested matches for beers from Fuller’s range:                         

·         London Pride – the richness of the company’s flagship ale makes it an ideal accompaniment to roast meats, so serve with Sunday lunch.  

·         Chiswick Bitter – the refreshing tang of session bitter Chiswick goes perfectly with a cheeseboard or ploughman’s.

·         Bengal Lancer  - this traditional IPA is more than a match for the spiciness of a curry or Thai dish.

·         Organic Honey Dew – the zest and citrus notes of a chilled Honey Dew pairs it nicely with fish and chips, and you can also try adding a drop to the batter.

·         London Porter – this award winning traditional beer style goes beautifully with mussels and other seafood, and also works well as an ingredient in a steak pie.

·         Chimay Gold - the balance of sweet and bitter notes in this BelgianTrappist beer makes it an excellent dessert beer, complementing a rich sticky toffee pud or creamy cheesecake. 

·         Frontier Lager – the clean, refreshing flavour of this hand-crafted lager is a perfect balance with grilled meats, such as steaks, burgers and barbecues.

I’ve focused on beer, but there are also plenty of opportunities with wine to match the menu. The key, as ever, is to tell customers what you’re doing:
  • Print a suggested beer and wine match with every dish on the menu
  • Devote a staff training session to food and drink matching to give staff the confidence to make recommendations.
  • Hold a beer and food matching night with a three or more course menu matched to different brews.
  • Recommend different wines by the glass with each course at Sunday lunch for a fixed price.
  • Above all, make it fun. There are no right or wrong matches, just different opinions, Encourage the debate!

This column original appeared in the March 204 issue of Fuller's Tenants Extra  

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