You can't make informed decisions about starting a food offer unless you have
all the information at your fingertips. Our experts point you in the right direction
The simplest food offer we advise our licensees to do is the cold back bar. For a small outlay, you can offer customers at least a sandwich or a baguette with different types of bread, plus sweets such as ice cream.
This means that the only equipment you'll need is:
l Set of sharp knives
l Chopping board
l Display unit
l Matching cutlery and plates
Don't be afraid to try new fillings - carry the popular lines such as ham, tuna, cheese - but it's the unusual ones that will give your offer its unique edge.
Desserts are often forgotten, but there is a huge opportunity for simple fare such as ice cream - especially if you have a garden with a play area.
From this, the finances and the know-how can be built up to allow you to progress to a hot back-bar offer, where you'll need more equipment, but still won't need to be a chef. Pies, potatoes, jackets and toasties can stop your customers going elsewhere for a snack or a meal.
l Display the fact that you are doing food, using a display case, menu or chalkboard - preferably, a combination of these.
l Keep it simple, use fresh ingredients and hone presentation.
l Build up your stock slowly - don't carry too many perishables until you build up an idea of what your customers want.
l Cost portions carefully - ham sandwiches vary widely unless controlled. Keep knives sharp to help you control portions.
l Target specific occasions - live football, music nights, etc.
Whenever people apologise in advance for the food they're about to serve me - because they're not a professional chef - I always reply that, usually, the best food I've tasted has not been cooked by "professional" chefs.
You can cook without being a chef and you don't need a huge kitchen, an array of pots and pans, or even an oven. If you have a microwave, a counter top for a chopping board, a sink and a fridge/freezer - you're in business. If you have a small grill as well, you're on the way to a food pub.
If you want to offer more than crisps and nuts, cook a few quality local sausages, slice them to order, and serve as finger food with a ketchup and mustard dip. Going a step further, try Welsh rarebit. For a quick, tasty version, blend grated Cheddar, a little stout or porter, egg yolk, English mustard powder and a few drops of Worcester sauce; spread this on toast and grill.
If you feel a touch of the Gordon Ramsays coming on, make a roux (equal quantities of flour and butter), add a little milk, and then the rest of the ingredients above, except the egg yolk. Allow to cool, then spread liberally on toast. And once you've spread it on toast, you can freeze it. When the order comes in, just whack it under the grill, straight from frozen - genius!
You can go the microwavable, bought-in, frozen pie route. But putting a personal stamp on things sets you apart from rivals. If you can make a cuppa, you can knock up tasty food!
l Put a glass-fronted hot cupboard and a plug-in soup cauldron on the bar top to heat up butcher-supplied pork pies.
l Turn your bacon buttie into an art form: thick-sliced white bread, plenty of butter, and don't skimp on the bacon.
l Do home-made burgers - as tasty as food gets when topped with melted Cheddar.
You must do thorough research in your locality before you set up a food offer. If you're going to focus on sandwiches, visit your local baker and butcher.
Ask them what people are buying, what sandwiches and meats are popular. Then go to the other shops on your street and ask them to identify their top sellers.
Once you feel confident that you have gained an idea of what will sell, start to think about the local suppliers you might want to use. If you do use local suppliers, promote the fact. If people go to the local butcher for their meat because that's what they want, the same people will appreciate locally-sourced meat in their local pub.
Finally, adapt the ideas you have hand-picked from your enquiries into a unique offer that's all your own.
l Counter-top kebabs.
l Filled rolls.