Desserts: Just like your mum makes?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Desserts, Pudding

When you stop to think about it, it ain't rocket science. Selling something to someone who is already sitting in your pub is a damn site easier than...

When you stop to think about it, it ain't rocket science. Selling something to someone who is already sitting in your pub is a damn site easier than dragging them through the door in the first place.

At a time when it's more important than ever for publicans to add value to food sales, one answer lies at the often-neglected end of the menu. Simon Cannell, product manager at Brakes, believes there are simple ways to increase dessert sales without losing spend in other areas of the business.

"The key to selling desserts is to firstly ensure you have desserts suitable for your customers," he says. "If you have an older clientele, they will tend to choose the more traditional steamed puddings, apple pies and so on, while if you are more family-orientated there will tend to be a greater demand for ice-cream and chocolate-based desserts."

Choice is the next key driver of sales. Limiting the number of desserts you have on your menu can make sense in terms of restricting menu complexity and reducing wastage, but two or three desserts may not cater for all your customers' tastes.

Many desserts can be stored in the freezer and cooked in minutes in the microwave. Hot desserts also smell great - the enticing aroma of caramel or hot toffee wafting around a pub can be a great advertisement for a desserts menu.

Selling desserts requires a good sales technique. Customers like to feel they have chosen to have a dessert. Brakes' experience has been that if you simply leave the menu with customers rather than ask them if they want to see it, this increases sales. Curiosity draws them in, and if the offer's right they'll be enticed by what they see. Once one member of a party decides to treat themselves to a dessert, others are likely to follow suit.

"Desserts are like any other part of your food offering," says Simon. "Scrimp and save on quality and people will not buy again. Remember, the dessert will be the last impression they have of your food offering. At Brakes this year, a big part of our strategy has been 'best versions of classics', either taking existing products and ensuring they are leading the market or developing new products with a potential twist on old favourites.

"Banoffee pie is a huge favourite and we upgraded this at the beginning of the year to be just like your mum used to make - as long as your mum was a good cook!"

Keeping up to date with trends in consumer tastes is also important. Fruit-based desserts are on the up, says Simon. "Anything fruit-based has received lots of interest. Chocolate still tops the list, however, with white chocolate being ever more popular. Customers also seem to be looking for what's next though - what's the next generation choc fudge cake?"

Publicans still make mistakes when it comes to selling desserts. One of the most common is the large portion sizes of starter and main courses. While a diner may have fancied a dessert when they first sat down, fear of a Mr Creosote-style bursting may mean they leave well alone when the time comes.

Another frequently missed opportunity is to serve desserts for the season - winter is a time of hot, wholesome desserts and summer for lighter, more refreshing varieties. The menu should reflect this, with hot toffee puddings and crumbles selling more in the winter, and summer puddings and citrus-based desserts in the summer.

Provenance is also becoming increasingly important to consumers. If it's an apple pie made with Bramley apples, or a crème brûlée made in France, say so. And make sure staff can describe the desserts effectively.

Based on an average £3.95 menu price, pubs should be able to make a GP of between £2 and £2.50 per dessert sold. Even just 10 extra diners a day eating desserts will make the numbers mount up.

Look also at other opportunities at quieter times of the day. "More and more pubs offer hot beverages," says Simon, "but they don't seem to link them with food. Products such as cheesecake, Victoria sponge or even walnut cake look great on show."

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