Beer and Food: Cash in on food need

Related tags Beer Food Curry

Clever licensees should seize upon the opportunity to sell food to customers who only came in to drink.A great deal of the focus of the beer and food...

Clever licensees should seize upon the opportunity to sell food to customers who only came in to drink.

A great deal of the focus of the beer and food matching brigade is on persuading customers buying food to order a beer to go with it. If pubs are successful, that's good news for the brewers, but for the pub, the sale effectively replaces that of another drink - usually wine.

The real trick is to reverse the transaction and persuade a customer who only came in for a beer to have something to eat with it. For pubs with a limited food offer, such incremental sales can make a huge difference. "Customers who frequent their local pub tend to drink, on average, around two to three pints of beer and purchase crisps or peanuts," says Christopher Pratt, sales director of snack specialist Rollover.

"For pubs with a high percentage of wet sales, a great way of encouraging beer-drinking customers to put more money through the till is to create an appetising bar snack or light bite menu that's simple and easy to maintain. You can quite easily upsell these customers into buying a more profitable snack from a tempting bar menu."

Ethnic dishes

Snacks such as nachos, or light bite meals including burgers and hot dogs, always go down well with a pint.

"Most customers popping into the pub for a pint or two during lunch, after work or on a Sunday afternoon are likely to want to snack, order a light bite or even share one in-between meals. For pubs that aren't food-driven, with limited or no skilled kitchen staff, this means they can still provide a beer and food offering while maximising sales."

Beer is also a classic accompaniment to many ethnic dishes. An oriental beer such as Japanese lager Asahi, now brewed under licence by Shepherd Neame, is a great match with most styles of oriental food, from sushi to Thai green curry. Other beers with a similar appeal include Tiger, Lal Toofan and Singha.

With a curry, Indian beers such as Cobra and Kingfisher are not simply an obvious match - offering such specialist beers is also a strong-but-subtle cue to customers that the pub takes both beer and food seriously.

Suggesting beer matches next to items on the menu will help to reinforce this message, and also create opportunities for linked beer and food promotions. JD Wetherspoon pioneered this approach with its weekly Curry Club promotion, offering an Indian dish and a pint for a set price, but it's an idea which is freely adaptable.

Naresh Guglani, development chef with ethnic food specialist Veetee Foodservice, says: "Why not boost sales of beer by teaming up a curry and beer promotion or a weekly curry and beer special? Choose a night that is normally the most quiet - usually around mid-week - or build in a limited-period time offer and throw in a free beer to whet the appetite."

Naresh agrees that set menu, fixed-price promotions which include a free beer tend to be highly successful. "Not only is it easy to control and serve, but it also means less wastage because you don't need to cook the ingredients completely, you can just keep them prepared or pre-prepared," he says.

"Menu items could include the nation's favourite, chicken tikka masala, or other popular dishes such as lamb or chicken bhuna, chicken or prawn korma; or for the more adventurous, try king prawns kadai, pork or lamb vindaloo, Goan fish curry or lamb shami kebab with curry." Set menus should be affordable and reasonably priced.

The chance to sample a selection of beers with food is a strong promotional draw, and doesn't just work with more exotic menu items. At the Fountain Inn in Clent, Worcestershire, licensees Richard and Jacqueline Macey have just launched a Sunday night "beer and a butty" promotion, starting at £3.99.

The Union Pub Company tenanted business, current holder of the Sunday Lunch of the Year title in The Publican's Pub Food Awards, identified Sunday evenings as a relatively quiet trading time. While other pubs might be glad of a break after the rush of the lunchtime trade, Richard and Jacqui have seized on it as an opportunity.

"We offer a roast meat sandwich with roast potatoes and gravy, and a pint of cask beer," says Richard. "It's a relaxed promotion that works well at that time." Customers can also have their pint in three "hits" if they want. The Fountain offers cask beers in third of a pint glasses, allowing ale enthusiasts to sample more of the beers on offer.

"If a customer's driving, for example, they may only have one pint. Serving thirds allows them to try different beers," adds Richard.

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