1. Time to pig out
Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh’s “most exciting moment of last year” was the coming together of his pubs’ foot-long pork scratchings. McVeigh says the extra £2.75 a customer is willing to part with for a quality bar snack makes a significant difference to profits and loyalty.
“They give customers something to talk about when they leave,” he says. “That memory and connection is key. If a humble bit of pigskin can do that — bingo! You have a winner.”
2. Free for all
On Monday nights at the Alibi, close to Hove seafront in East Sussex, Punch tenant Neil Muckle gives away a bowl of chilli with a bottle of San Miguel or Sol, or a large glass of wine. The offer builds loyalty and reputation, with word of mouth plus website promotion attracting around 50 customers. A vegetarian option is available as well.
At the Star Inn, the brewery tap of Bath-based Abbey Ales, free Sunday snacks include quail eggs, sausage rolls and cheeses.
3. Vegetarian value
Bar Wars’ Lazy Dog’s daily-changing lunch menu offers a substantial snack for £4.95 from 12noon to 3pm, Monday to Friday. Vegetarian options include goats’ cheese and red onion tart with salad. Small vegetarian meze (£5.95/£8.95) is a favourite at the company’s Windmill, in Bristol, including marinated olives and feta cheese chunks, rice-stuffed vine leaves and hummus, with salad and bread.
In Sheffield city centre, Punch Taverns’ lease the Red Deer offers sharing platters, including roasted vegetables, baked-in-box mini Camembert, hummus and crudités (£8.50).
4. Superb Scotch eggs
Four Manchester pubs — the Mark Addy, the Parlour, Horse & Jockey and Electrik — now serve Ben Holden’s famous Manchester Egg, which is a pickled egg wrapped in Bury black pudding and premium sausage meat, then coated in seasoned golden crumb.
At Classic Carveries’ White Horse in Eaton Socon, Cambridgeshire, Oliver Reynalds’ team sell about 30 Scotch egg puddings weekly. Reynalds says that the Cadbury’s Creme Egg wrapped in a doughnut, battered and coated in caster sugar, and served hot (£2), may be “a world first”.
5. Remarkable pies
In a west London area once famous for its piggeries, chef Jesse Dunford Wood is featuring ‘remarkable’ pork pies with sweet and sour vegetables (£6.50) at Notting Hill’s Mall Tavern, owned by Perritt & Perritt.
He says: “Farmer and cheesemaker Mary Holbrook provides us with half a pig every week. Half a lop-eared Somerset pig is useful for many things, including crackling and mains. We add pistachio nuts, dried apricots and mustard seeds to four pork pies weekly, providing 60 to 65 portions.”
6. Food on a stick
Ideal for pubs hosting popular events, JM Posner has launched the RoboQ range. It includes a specialised pizza-on-a-stick oven and a barbecue oven for “anything that can be put on a stick” — meat, seafood, vegetables. Cooking time is two to three minutes with batches ready at 25 to 40-second intervals for hungry and waiting customers.
Atlantic Foods suggests introducing a ‘snack of the day’ to pique consumers’ interest. Staff must also be briefed to upsell snacks to maximise profit.
7. Toasty treats
Trish Hilferty’s kitchen team serves a high-quality bar snack menu all day, from Monday to Saturday, at the Canton Arms in Stockwell, south London, including about 60 of her lauded toasties with foie gras (£8.80) and haggis (£3.20).
At Sheffield’s Red Deer, chicken liver or mushroom pâté and pickles are served on toast with piccalilli and home-made dips (£3).
The whiff of hot buttered toast, free with any drink purchased before midday, attracts passing trade and regulars to InnBrighton’s Paris House in Hove, East Sussex.
8. Get into the wing of things
Dan Fox uses Twitter to publicise ‘Wings Wednesday’, when an offer of 10 spicy chicken wings for £5 helps to attract drinkers to sample ales at free-of-tie lease the Bull in Highgate, north London, which has its own microbrewery in the kitchen. Between 30 and 45 portions are sold weekly, with Fox remaining characteristically optimistic about the current 40-wing challenge being met. The innovative bar-snack menu also includes crispy frogs’ legs with aïoli (£5.50).
9. Asian feast
His grandmother’s dumpling recipe from Black Dragon River province in north-east China helps head chef/licensee Shounian Gao satisfy customers at Punch lease the Waterman, in Cambridge.
“When we cooked them for our regulars, they kept asking for more, so now we offer them permanently,” he explains.
At London’s Camden Arms, where cocktails and Thai food go hand in hand, 10 options feature on the ‘fiver’ lunch menu from 12noon to 3pm, Tuesday to Friday, including spring rolls, vegetables in oyster sauce, and steamed rice.
10. Stateside sliders
Darron Smith at freehold the Horse & Jockey, Ravensden, Bedfordshire, says: “We’re seven miles from town and our compact bar only offered crisps and nuts. I devised our bar sliders using an idea I’d seen in the USA — three mini-burgers of beef, pork and chicken, with relishes and fries. Their framed photo on the bar is seen by about 400 people weekly and we sell around 30 at £10 each.”
The Bull in Highgate’s America-influenced snack menu also features beef sliders, with tomato and cornichons (£5.50).