Summer gardens

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How gardens can grow your profits: Although the UK may not always have continental weather, there is no reason why customers cannot enjoy the great...

How gardens can grow your profits: Although the UK may not always have continental weather, there is no reason why customers cannot enjoy the great outdoors. By Phil Mellows

There is no question that the British are growing more continental in their habits. Not content any more to sip their pints in a dark and smoky bar while the sun blazes down, they like to sit outside, hardly worrying at all about flies diving into their beer.

Yet - and here's the conundrum - where is the continental weather to match the continental lifestyle?

In recognition of the vagaries of the domestic climate, the British pub is beginning to develop its own translation of al fresco drinking and dining in which warmth and shelter are vital.

So flimsy beer garden umbrellas are giving way to giant, sturdy parasols, canopies and tents - and a patio heater is always at the ready should the air turn chilly.

It isn't only the weather that licensees need to consider when making the most of the great outdoors, however. Just as importantly, you should think about how to adapt your whole service, the food and the drink, to create a summery feel.

The barbecue is the obvious catering angle and many pubs produce a special summer menu of lighter dishes and salads (for more on barbecues, use the link at the bottom of this page). But what about drinks?

There will be plenty of summer ales around thanks to the regional brewers, quaffable hoppy pale brews such as Wadworth's Summersault with its super-summery pump-clip and, more unconventionally, Robinson's Stadium Bitter.

The Stockport brewer is to bring a new twist to summer ales by linking this one to the Commonwealth Games, which is being held in Manchester in July and August.

A second seasonal ale, Snowdon, will be made available to the North Wales branch of the Robinson's estate and may be rolled out further if successful.

Meanwhile, bigger brewers, such as Coors and Interbrew, see the summer as an opportunity to get people drinking their new sharing bottles of Grolsch and Stella Artois, respectively.

The sunshine may also encourage your customers to try new and exotic drinks, particularly the more refreshing kinds of cocktails and mixed drinks.

Famously, there is Pimm's, of course, fairly simply put together in a profitable pitcher mixed with lemonade and garnished with some appropriate fruit and veg.

There is also an opportunity for more exotic cocktails, but many pubs will be put off by the complications and skills required in their preparation. To help licensees add to their seasonal offering, brewer Charles Wells has produced a range of ready-mixed cocktails under the Muse brand.

On trial in the SFI pub chain, they brought down the average time taken to make a cocktail from three minutes to 30 seconds. Muse comes in eight flavours - Sex on the Beach, Zombie, Long Island Iced Tea, Illusion, Blue Lagoon, Margarita and the non-alcoholic Cardinal Punch.

Lighter styles of wine should also benefit from warmer weather and one old favourite, Mateus Rose, is seizing the opportunity in style this summer.

The Portuguese brand was relaunched recently in a drier style which should improve its drinkability in the heat, and it has chosen to develop close links with gardening, initially sponsoring its own garden at the BBC Gardeners' World Live Show at the NEC in Birmingham this week.

Green-fingered celebrity Rachel de Thame helped launch the initiative.

Providing a good service outdoors also presents some practical challenges.

If you are serving drinks at a special event, for instance, or even on the street outside your pub, the local authority will often insist on your not using glass.

To deal with that, and avoid the brand being poured into unattractive plastic cups, Bacardi Breezer has recently been launched in plastic PET bottles.

Bacardi-Martini decided to make the new pack available to pubs after identifying no fewer than 276 outdoor events this summer which are each likely to attract at least 15,000 people, a "mind-boggling opportunity" according to senior trade marketing manager Nick Hunt.

Even if your own barbecue isn't quite on this scale, he believes that stocking plastic bottles can really boost your sales.

"They are more acceptable than plastic glasses and more portable for people carrying drinks out into the garden," he said.

"We would obviously prefer to serve Breezer in glass bottles where possible, but at the end of the day we want people to continue to buy the brand in whatever form.

"It's true that people prefer drinking out of glass, but most are well aware of the regulations these days and they understand it has to be plastic."

More on summer gardens:

Ice:​ As temperatures rise in the summer months licensees will need ice - read on...

Barbecues:​ Barbecues can be a great way to boost food sales - read on...

Bad Weather:​ How to keep your customers warm and dry when the weather turns bad - read on...

Gardens:​ Grolsch's Dutch gardens are a great way to improve summer trade - read on...

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