Updated: Dec 14, 2020
We have clients across the UK working hard to make their tier status work for them.
Our team of business development managers have looked at some of the top tips out there to share with you all.
From those who have never offered food before, to the more experienced food operators, thinking creatively is the key.
You might not have served food before but are keen to offer a ‘substantial meal’ to allow drinkers back. Some pubs will have some unused kitchen space, some just a small spot to spare on the bar. Either way, where there’s a will, there’s a meal.
How about a daily special of chilli, curry, winter broth etc?
All you need is a soup kettle on the bar and some chunky bread to go with it. Simple but effective.
(Don’t forget vegetarians, have you the space for 2 soup kettles? It will certainly be appreciated by your vegetarian customers, if there is no food for them, they have no option but to look elsewhere, and take their bubble with them)
There are some great one-pot ideas here
If you do have kitchen space, your options are increased.
You can now look at even a simple menu. Go to your local cash and carry and you’ll be surprised at the range you can offer on a small menu of as few as just 6 items of easy to prepare food.
Try to limit the number of ingredients you need to offer more items. E.G, Chicken goujons can be a starter, or inside a bun, you have a chicken burger.
You can also find a small range of ideal menu items in your local supermarkets with all of them offering pizza under £1 for example.
A classic, simple, and quick to prepare food, pizza is also universally popular.
If you think your customers want a bit more than a supermarket pizza, then there are plenty of options.
One option is Barrel & Stone which is a branded pizza concept where they provide all you need to make stonebaked pizzas quickly and simply. Your offering is backed with branded boxes, menus, napkins etc so it looks really professional.
There are many other companies out there offering similar ways to buy/rent pizza equipment.
Is your pub rural with no takeaways in the locality, you could be that service!
If you are blessed by a hoard of quality takeaways and just want to be able to serve drinks, then take advantage of the situation and partner with them.
You can then advertise that your pub offers Pizza, Curry, Thai, whatever there is that’s good locally, in the comfort of their local pub with a proper pub pint in hand.
You provide the menus, take the order, call the takeaway, then when the food arrives, the customer pays and eats at their table. You provide some disposable plates/cutlery and napkins, and the drinks! You might even get discounts or commission from the takeaway owners!
Perhaps you don’t have space indoors for serving food but have a great space outside in your garden or car park. Could a winter BBQ work for you?
Your customers could buy tickets for a table from a set time, you then serve everyone their pre-ordered BBQ food while they enjoy drinks.
Change of menu
Many pubs that served food before lockdown struggled to translate this into takeaways or were struggling with staff availability (or the cost of staff) to offer a usual menu.
At this time, it is important to be flexible. Your usual menu of pub classics might not translate into take away, or a substantial meal ‘grazing/sharing’ concept.
If that is the case, perhaps it is time to look at a different menu? We have seen menus based around platters and tapas style doing well for many pubs. This allows you to offer an easier takeaway concept and also provide a meal that whilst is still legally ‘substantial’ it might suit those who prefer to just have a drink but need something to keep them legal.
Perhaps you had a favourite dish that was popular with your customers such as the best fish and chips in town, could you focus on promoting that one item?
Many of our clients offered a premium food and drink service and saw no reason to change this. So, whilst they have adapted their menu to make it more friendly to their takeaway needs and to the needs of the kitchen team, they have retained their speciality, quality.
If you have a speciality such as premium seafood for example, it is perhaps this that your regular customers are missing in their lives. If they are used to paying premium prices for premium products, don’t be shy about your price. If your dishes require specialist preparation or packaging, factor that into the price.
If you are currently closed, you will inevitably move into a less restrictive tier at some point. We strongly advise planning for that now, even to the extent of advertising what you will be doing when allowed. Get potential customers looking forward to it early on. This even gives customers the chance to give early feedback on your menu/ideas ahead of the launch.
It is also a great idea to look even further forward, what are your plans for February half term?, Easter?
A massive frustration at this time of year is that we’re not able to take advantage of the usual massive upsurge in trade brought about by the festive period.
Whilst it won’t make up for what you’ve lost out on, still get into the festive spirit, you and your customers need a festive boost this year.
· Add mince pies and mulled wine to your takeaway options. Maybe this is the time to finally find out what Egg-Nog is!
· Can you still offer Christmas dinners delivered in foil on the day or even collected on Christmas Eve and warmed up on the day? Christmas will look very different this year and many people who would have joined in on a big family day won’t now, and maybe won’t feel like making the big meal for just 1 or 2 people.
· Restrictions will eventually end, are you selling Christmas Gift Vouchers for customers to buy and use when you re-open. The goodwill of your regular customers will often remain, and they will want to support you.
· If you are seeing some trade, maximise on it. Offer customers vouchers for a discount on their food in the New Year.
Especially if you are new to offering food, it is important to get your pricing right. Only you will know how much you need to charge. Some pubs are selling food at a low price to get people in to buy drinks. Others are charging full price for their food looking to maximise on the food trade to offset overall additional costs. Most are finding a balanced approach best.
Things to remember on pricing:
· The VAT rate on food and non-alcoholic drinks is at the reduced rate of just 5% until 31st March 2021
· If you are simply putting a soup kettle filled with curry on your bar to provide food with no kitchen or additional staffing, you should be able to make a little profit and still sell at a great price point.
· Price your food before selling it. It sounds obvious but often forgotten. Calculate the cost of a recipe’s ingredients to work out how much to charge so that you’re not making a loss first, then look at profit if that is your aim.
· Don’t forget to factor in cost of kitchen staff or delivery staff.
Keeping it legal
· If you’ve never served food before and intend to, you must inform your local authority ahead of time.
· It is quick and easy to get a food hygiene certificate online, don’t forget to do it.
· Be very careful you are not breaking the law. What constitutes a substantial meal has been much debated in the press and social media. Most sensible people know what is and isn’t a meal, so we would advise that if there is a voice in the back of your head telling you that what you are serving is not actually a meal, be careful!
· Remember that the rules have been clarified on when drinkers can be on your premises when ordering and eating food. Once they have finished eating, they are to leave. If you (and they) want that visit to last longer, perhaps offer starters and puddings, they don’t have to be huge or pricy.
Whilst we know how tough it is for many publicans this year, it is important to keep your customers interested in your business.
If you are doing nothing, your competition may not be.
When this finally blows over, you want to ensure that your old customer base haven’t been lured away by a neighbouring pub for the want of a simple soup kettle full of chilli.
Have a chat to your Roslyns BDM, they are a great resource for ideas that can work for you.