Adding sauces to dishes can be a great way to drive profit and enhance menu items such as steaks and burgers.
They offer an economical way to increase profit as they can be put on the plate as part of the meal rather than as an accompaniment.
Using them as a plate filler means portion sizes can be trimmed to save on the more expensive ingredients — and they're also a money spinner when sold separately.
Heidi Easby, group food development and innovation director at Brakes Group, says: "Making Brakes piccalilli a main element to a smaller slice of Brakes chicken & ham pie with a side salad and portion of potato salad, for example, will effectively fill the plate at a minimum cost to the caterer." She also recommends Brakes beetroot and horseradish chutney with Brie.
Sharing platters and tapas-style food are ideal for serving with condiments. Try serving mayonnaise with pots of chips, barbecue sauce with chicken wings or salsa with nachos.
Mars Foodservice's range of 19 Uncle Ben's and Dolmio ready-to-use sauces can be used as dips for sharing platters.
Ideas include sweet & sour won tons using spiced pork, prawn and spring onion with Uncle Ben's sweet & sour sauce, and kofta kebab skewers using lightly curried mini kebabs and Uncle Ben's korma sauce.
There is no denying that the mighty Heinz is the daddy of pub-sauce suppliers. Caterers remain loyal to the well-known brand because it is seen as the "gold standard" and is recognised by customers. "On top of unique taste and appearance, there's a definite emotional connection with the brand, which caterers acknowledge is inherently important to their customers," says Samantha D'Silva, Heinz foodservice brand manager.
"In research conducted by Cambridge Direction, outlets that served Heinz and HP condiments front of house have a far greater perception of quality of food and standard of service than those serving non-branded condiments," says D'Silva.
Established brands are always winners with customers. Colman's has been making mustard for more than 180 years and uses local products when possible. Leon Mills, category manager for Colman's, says: "Value for money, food provenance and authenticity are key values for modern consumers when eating out of home."
The Colman's range includes traditional English mustard — both powder and ready-made — and other mustard variants include wholegrain, French and Dijon. The range for pub caterers too busy to make their own Sunday roast sauces is completed with mint sauce, apple sauce and horseradish sauce. Menu ideas include ham with mustard and pork belly with apple sauce.
Although recognised brands will always have a place in the on-trade, some customer bases will be open to change. Mitch Adams, of private leasehold the Thatchers Arms in Mount Bures, Essex, changed to a local supplier around 18 months ago to match his local sourcing ethos.
He uses brown sauce, mint sauce, mustard, horseradish sauce and ketchup from Stokes Sauces. The new brand is 20% more expensive than the previous one, but Adams has maintained GP by slightly increasing lower-priced dishes and working out deals with suppliers.
The way condiments are served differs according to the style of the venue. A relaxed informal dining brand, such as Whitbread's Beefeater concept, may encourage diners to help themselves to sachets of sauces from a communal serving area.
This can save busy staff time and allows the diner to choose both the types of sauces and the quantity to their taste.
The next step up is to provide caddies full of popular condiments on each table, including vinegar, ketchup and mayonnaise. This approach is favoured by licensees serving traditional pub food, who expect customers to want to add sauces to their meals.
Heinz has launched a branded chrome table-top caddy to house its sauce portfolio, to make dining easier for staff and customers alike. The two and four-piece caddies include menu and salt & pepper holders, and space for bottles, and two add-ons are available — an extra two-bottle holder and a black sachet holder.
Whiting & Hammond pubs leave condiments on tables. Assistant manager at the Old Mill, in East Grinstead, West Sussex, Sophie Clark says: "The sauces are put on the tables to make it look more inviting and as though we have made an effort."
With more pubs than ever offering breakfasts, operators need to consider the range of condiments to go with the meal. The Old Mill offers ketchup, HP sauce and English mustard for diners, which are placed ready on each table.
Other venues will ask diners if they require any condiments as the dishes are delivered, at which point they will be brought either in bottles or
At Young's pub the Lass O'Richmond Hill, in Richmond, south-west London, condiments are used as a way of reinforcing the differences between the bar eating area and the restaurant area.
"When people order food in the bar area we take a basket of all the main condiments over straight away," says deputy manager Imogen Rhodes. "In the restaurant area, staff will explain the range of condiments suitable for the dishes ordered and ask people if they would like any when they have their meals.
"Then we bring them over in little Kilner jars. It is a way of keeping it more formal in the restaurant and informal in the bar area."
Everyone is different and, although pub staples such as ketchup enhance many a dish, it is not suitable for every meal.
Young's pub the Lass O'Richmond Hill, winner of the Morning Advertiser's Steak Pub of the Year 2011 category at the Great British Pub Food Awards, has hit the nail on the head with a range of innovative and interesting sauces to complement its extensive barbecue menu.
The Angus beef ribs come with a Bourbon smoked barbecue sauce, the corn-fed chicken brochettes are marinated in chilli and lime, the skewered British lamb is served with a chilli & lemon soured cream and the spiced Gressingham duck leg
is covered with a citrus & maple
glaze (all £7).
More unusual dressings are used on the main menu, such as a sherry and coriander dressing to go with salmon, a balsamic and mint dressing is paired with a summer vegetables and feta dish, and the Gressingham duck is this time served with a blackcurrant dressing.
"Karl Byron, our head chef, comes up with most of the dishes, including all the sauces and dressings," says deputy manager Imogen Rhodes. "We often get really positive feedback about the little bits that go alongside, as well as the main dishes themselves. People love his real-ale chutney and the walnut remoulade that goes with the goats' cheese parcels. Lots of people comment."
Rhodes says people keep coming back because they know there will be something new on the menu, along with some unusual little extras such as condiments and sauces.
The pub provides picnic hampers for up to eight people (£66.95), including home-made chutneys, jams and pickles, selling around 40 a week at peak season.
Fun in a bun
Sauces can also be used to spice up burgers, as the Grand Union pub company knows. The 11-site operator serves its Fired Earth Burger with a "secret spicy sauce", its Fully Loaded burger with BBQ sauce, and its smoked chilli burger with smoked chilli sauce. It also uses more unusual sauces such as Caesar dressing in its Caesar burger and pesto with its pesto & mozzarella burger.
Premium burger restaurant Byron offers a bespoke sauce as part of some burger dishes, such as corn-fed chicken fillet with tomato mayonnaise and baby spinach, but it also offers diners the chance to add extra sauces for an additional £1.25, including chilli sauce, spicy BBQ sauce, aioli, tomato mayonnaise or blue cheese sauce.
At TGI Friday's customers can pay an extra 99p to add a sauce to their burger, including honey mustard mayo, garlic mayo, south-west sour cream or spicy salsa.
Peach site the Embankment in Bedford runs a weekly steak night. Although