With snow tumbling down not so long ago a feature on al fresco eating was looking a little misplaced, to say the least.
For sadly nothing has a bigger impact on how a pub’s outside space is used than the good old British weather.
Finally though, the sun is breaking through and it is time to wheel the barbecue into the garden, dust down those jumbrellas and start asking customers whether they would like to sit inside or out.
At the Deer’s Leap in Weston, Lincolnshire, the summer season is getting under way. Licensee Jake Smith says: “When people can eat outside it probably doubles the space we have at the pub. It is a hugely important time of year for us but the last two summers have been dreadful.
“We like to ensure we have a well-kept garden and cater for all by having two clear dining areas. The garden is popular with families and we have a patio, which couples prefer.”
The menu changes for the summer with the likes of sharing platters, stir-fries, ploughman’s, burger and chips and salads all doing well from May to September. But nothing beats a barbecue. Jake explains: “We always hold barbecue events on the bank holidays. We charge £2.50 for a burger and £1.50 for a hot dog. “It’s good for us because we get to have the chef working outside and they meet the customers and interact in a way that doesn’t happen at any other time.”
And for most pubs with any kind of outside space, the barbecue is the perfect way to add to or create a seasonal menu.
James Armitage, Brakes independent marketing director, agrees. “Offering a compact barbecue menu that includes a range of skewers, burgers and sausages, alongside fresh rolls and salads, is simple to deliver and can make your pub or restaurant stand out as an essential summer destination,”he says.
“From an operational point of view, the barbecue will also drive additional profit by helping to free up kitchen and front-of-house staff to focus on taking drink orders and delivering the main menu.”
Getting the meat right is of course key (see Ben Bartlett’s comment below) but the side dishes and sauces should not be overlooked. According to McCain, pubs can add £8,000 a year on the bottom line by paying closer attention to snacks and side dishes, which are ideal for the barbecue season.
Sauces too should be given the attention they deserve. According to Mintel, half of people say barbecues are more about fun than food, so this gives pubs a chance to exceed expectations.
Roy Shortland, development chef for Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s sauces, points to one particularly popular trend.“Arguably, the most significant development is the rising popularity of exotic and stronger flavours, which now feature strongly in new barbecue foods,”he says. “Caramelised flavours, often accompanied by actual caramelised pieces of fruits and vegetables, is also a growing trend in all types of sauce bases as a way of delivering both flavour and colour.”
And if the sun doesn’t shine at least you can try those sauces and side dishes inside the pub too.
BBQ King Ben Bartlett says:
“When it comes to the menu, less is definitely more. Restrict the number of items to around five and do them well. Burgers are the number one seller, followed by chicken, pork and fish, and of course vegetarian options.
“Try to upsell by offering cheese or relishes and prepare as much as possible in advance, while looking to utilise products that will aid quick service, such as Kerrymaid Original Slices. When you have a long line of hungry people, it’s imperative to keep things moving. Kerrymaid Original Slices are easily peelable without plastic separators between each slice that slow down every barbecue chef.
“Utilise as much outdoor space as possible. Some pubs can double the amount of covers when running barbecue events. They should also try to keep customers spending. Providing a form of entertainment will encourage families to make a day of it, for example giant chessboards or Jenga. Also make sure serving staff regularly take drinks orders and offer customers another burger.”
Celebrity chef Ben Bartlett is president of the British Barbecue Association and an ambassador for Kerrymaid. For more information on Kerrymaid visit www.kerryfoodservice.co.uk
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