With more pubs than ever including Asian dishes and flavours on the menu, the Crown in Old Oxted, Surrey decided to tackle a seasonal dip in food sales with a trial of mild curries from Veetee, aimed at a family market.
Licensee Alan Percival has run the 16th century pub for over 17 years. The menu is updated each week, with daily specials and seasonal ingredients a feature.
"Families are a core part of our trade, so it seemed a good idea to add some winter warmers that would appeal to the family market. I believe a pub should provide a relaxed, sociable environment for everyone to enjoy a day out. It's important for children to associate pubs as more than somewhere to get drunk."
Over the last 10 years, the Crown has developed a cosmopolitan menu, partly due to the international brigade of chefs, that the pub has attracted from Australia, Thailand and the United States. Each of the chefs has left a legacy of three or four signature dishes on the menu.
"We were one of the first pubs in the area to offer a genuine Thai Green curry. Today the Thai Green curry and Thai fishcakes are still a regular feature on the specials menu. And from the States, the Cajun rump steak is still a hot favourite.
"Veetee rice is a perfect accompaniment for our international menu, having a rice for every dish. The Veetee Long Grain rice is great with Tex Mex and steak dishes. We use the Veetee Thai fragrant rice with our Thai recipes and the Veetee Basmati isn't at all starchy and delivers perfect results every time.
"For risotto dishes, we use the Veetee Arborio rice, which is ideal for shellfish based risotto dishes. As Veetee rice is available in a variety of sizes it means less wastage and better portion control."
It seemed a natural solution for the Crown to trial a couple of mild, child- friendly curries. The recipes were supplied by Veetee and included a creamy vegetable curry with cherry tomato rice and a fruity chicken curry.
"They were quick and easy to prepare," says Alan. "We added them to the daily specials board and briefed the waiting team to talk up the curries to every family that came in.
"The ingredients cost £23.75 for 30 portions. We charged £3.25 per curry as this is in line with our kids menu such as Spaghetti Bolognese, and promoted it as a healthier option. This gave us a gross profit of £73.75.
"We had an amazingly positive response and all the parents agreed what a good idea it was, and have encouraged their children to choose the healthier curries rather than the usual kiddie burgers or nuggets and chips. Since starting the trial, we have found that 60 per cent of all our kids meals have been curries."
Romany, aged 11, was a big fan and voted the chicken curry 10 out of 10. Her younger sister Katya, five, was a little unsure as she hadn't eaten curry before but she soon tucked in.
Several of the younger ones had never had curry before and out of all the children, 80-90 per cent said that they'd order it again.
Alan says: "Developing kids dishes has not been a priority in the past, but in the last two years there has been a general trend towards healthy eating triggered by Jamie Oliver's TV programmes and more awareness of what we eat.
"Older kids aged from eight or nine up to 15 are definitely more attuned to healthier eating. We noticed that this age group were choosing jacket potatoes as an option rather than chips.
After such a great response from the kids and their parents - we intend to keep the children's curries on the menu for some time to come!"