The first few months of 2017 have been busy for both McCain and the pub industry, with the sector’s largest trade show – Pub 17 – taking place in February, followed by the 26th annual Publican Awards on March 14th. Alongside attending some of the biggest events in the hospitality industry, back in January McCain also partnered up with McManus Pubs for our “Dirty Weekender”, helping them find new ways to maximise profits and giving their customers a taste of topped chips.
With all this in mind, and with years of experience working closely with operators, it’s safe to say we’ve come to know a few things about the pub sector. That’s why we’ve put together some of our top tips for pub operators below, whether you’re looking to shake up your menu, understand more about what your customers want, or find new and simple ways to increase profit margins. Take a look at our tips below, and head to our pub sector page for more information on how we can help.
Don’t underestimate chips
If you’re looking to make your offering stand out, then the first step should be to make sure you’re perfecting the basics. When customers choose to eat at pubs, they have a clear idea in mind of the foods they’d like to eat, and our research shows that a huge 75% of customers want – and expect – to be able to choose chips as a side with their meal.
However, that doesn’t just mean that customers are happy with any old chips, and most have very firm ideas of what makes a good (or bad) chip. The customers we surveyed were fairly unanimous that chips should be crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and free of imperfections or so called “scratty” bits.
All this, alongside the fact that chips typically fill a third of the plate in pubs, means that finding a chip that ticks all the boxes is incredibly important. Luckily, our Original Choice range does just that, providing a consistent, cost effective and versatile chip offering that’s made with pub operators in mind.
Look to other sectors
If you’re looking to give your offering a new lease of life, then taking inspiration from other sectors is a great idea, whether you’d like to revitalise your menu or conjure up promotions to help draw in the crowds. The world of street food in particular has a lot to offer pubs, something which we picked up on with our partnership with Original Fry Up Material at February’s Pub 17 show, and with the menu we served with McManus back in January. On both occasions, we focused
One approach to topped chips would be to do as we did with McManus Pubs, and offer them to customers as a standalone option, independent of a main menu. With this approach, and using our Original Choice chips, McManus were able to draw in customers who may not otherwise have chosen to eat, selling around 86 portions of chips during an otherwise quiet January weekend. Based on adding this to the menu as a regular feature, over the course of a year they could make an additional £13,043 net profit – reason enough to look to street traders for inspiration.
An alternative angle would be to introduce chip toppings into a main menu as part of an optional extra, with customers able to “upgrade” their chips for a small additional charge. If you decide to take this approach then it’s a good idea to keep toppings simple, using ingredients you may already have to hand; bacon bits, shredded cheese, sautéed garlic and herbs are just a few easy to serve options that add value and taste.
Make it an event
Events or promotions can be great ways for pubs to draw in crowds, and at the same time provide a platform for testing new dishes and menu additions with customers. For example, advertising one-off or semi-regular menus with a focus outside of your typical offering can be a way to create intrigue. One way to do this is to focus in on international cuisines, and host something like a tapas, Mexican, or even Southern Style BBQ night. This approach gives regulars a taste of something new, and can help create a buzz to attract new custom.
If you’re not in a position to experiment with menus on a regular basis, then hosting a new event needn’t require too much effort. For example, even something as simple as an open bottle night – where diners are treated to a complimentary glass of wine, which the bottle offered changing week on week – can act as a way to draw in diners on otherwise quiet days. Events in pubs don’t have to reinvent the wheel though, and if you have your offering honed down then sometimes keeping it simple works; think special Sunday Lunch menus, plus offers for occasions like Easter Sunday, and other calendar events.