New York: Tour Operators

By Jo Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New york

Winners who went on PubChef study tour to New York

Michelle Crook, chef/licensee, the Castle of Comfort Inn, East Harptree, Somerset.

Background: Michelle is joint licensee and chef with her parents, Steve and Wendy Crook. The pub is a freehouse owned by a private investor.

Average covers a week: 700 in winter/1,000 in summer

Wet:dry split: 40:60

On the pub's menu: Starters include: duck spring rolls with a plum sauce dip (£4.75), mixed combo for two (£6.95), and torpedo prawns with a sweet chilli dip (£4.75). Mains include lamb cutlets with mint sauce (£7.95), pork chop with apple sauce (£7.95), local trout with almonds (£8.50).

Most interesting food concept in New York: "I found WholeFoods food shop really interesting. There is such a variation in produce and a real difference in butchery, with rolled meats with different stuffings. It was also great to see people sitting and eating at the bar and not having to worry about smoke."

New ideas gained in New York: "The type of dishes at Tabla gave me different ideas for different flavours. I loved the whole sharing-food idea. It has inspired me to increase our range of sharing food on the menu. We are offering more combos, which sell really well here. I am also offering a sharing plate of hot cheeses."

Favourite place to dine: Tabla, opposite Madison Square Park.

On sharing food: "It adds to the atmosphere of a place. I think pubs, particularly town pubs, could be making much more of this opportunity, and you are beginning to see more of it here."

Overall verdict: "I found New York very inspirational and came back with lots of new ideas and enthusiasm. My mum and dad also go away and eat out in different parts of the UK and is a good thing to do as you always pick up new dish ideas."

Richard Gordon, general manager at McManus pub company's the Swan, in Lamport, Northants.

Background: Richard has worked in the licensed trade all his working life. He trained as a chef at Corby Catering College

in Northants. He has worked at the Swan since it opened a year ago.

Average covers a week: 1,000

Wet:dry split: 35:65

On the pub's menu: Starters include Thai beef-salad, bang bang chicken and mussels. Mains include fish and fat chips with a difference, champ cake, swordfish and oriental veg stir fry.

Most interesting food concept in New York: The use of food, like onions, in drinks, and food and drink matching on menus. Richard says: "We are now doing this on our menu

and I am hoping to introduce a coding system between the menu and the wine list in the New Year." The scale of the popularity for sushi also caught his eye. "We are looking for a sushi supplier as I would love to offer sushi alongside our tapas menu."

New ideas gained in New York: The advantages of offering sharing food. Richard says: "It is less formal and helps create a great atmosphere and conversation. Also it offers

operators a great profit opportunity as is a real chance to upsell. We are now offering main dishes to share such as Chateaubriand for two and Cote de Boeuf. We have also

developed our tapas range - six dishes for £19.95 - which offers a daily choice of 25 options, such as octopus, squid, olives, asparagus in hollandaise sauce, stuffed peppers

with cous cous, vine leaves, crayfish tails, Italian cured meats and clams." Richard says: "Increasing the tapas has

increased our bar trade. Our restaurant used to be fully booked, so people would be disappointed, but you don't have to book for tapas and we can sit 25 in the bar."

Bills presented curled up napkin ring holders. "We are now presenting ours like this." More descriptive meat menu descriptions. "We are now naming the herd and cut of meat on our menus, such as blade of beef." New ideas for fish dishes. "At the Smith & Wollensky restaurant in Mid-town there was a seafood royale platter of lobster, scallops and prawns served on three tiers. We have been offering our own version of this. It is served on a bed of ice, with horseradish sauce as a starter at £29.95 for two."

Favourite place to dine in New York: Tabla, opposite Madison Square Park.

On sharing food: "We served tapas before, but before I went to New York I didn't really appreciate the benefits of offering food to share. It really adds to the ambience and theatre in your restaurant."

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