A ray of sunshine

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Hazel Nicholson of Derby's Rising Sun has doubled trade since introducing food at the previously wet-only pub Nicholson took over the Marston's Pub...

Hazel Nicholson of Derby's Rising Sun has doubled trade since introducing food at the previously wet-only pub

Nicholson took over the Marston's Pub Company lease in December 2005. The pub had no food offering and she described it as a "men's drinking bar with an unused lounge."

After extensive refurbishment, funded by the pub company and Nicholson, was completed in May 2006, she began to seriously explore the possibility of a food offering.

"The Rising Sun is alongside a canal, so I asked the boaters if they would dine here and they said that the pub was crying out for a food offering," she says.

Nicholson started off small with cheese and onion baguettes on the bar and asked her catering development manager about providing hot dogs.

"I contacted Nestlé and got a great deal on a hot dog grill. They gave me the equal monetary value in stock and the grill paid for itself within two months," she says.

Traditional pub food such as liver and onions (£5.25), steak and ale pie with home-made chips (£5.95) and sausage and mash (£5.25) were Nicholson's next additions to the menu. She estimates that the cost of ingredients for dishes such as liver and onions is approximately £1.50 and a menu price of £5.25 produces a gross profit of 71%.

Unable to cope on her own with the demand for food, Nicholson employed a cook who works Tuesday to Saturday evenings while she cooks weekday and Sunday lunches herself.

"We were the first of the three pubs in the area to offer Sunday roasts. The main course with a home-made sweet costs £5.95. The apple pie only costs about 14p per portion to make. If we sell it on its own at £2.50, that means we make a GP of 90%.

"The best thing is that people love home-made dishes and these sell far quicker than the bought-in products."

It is just over six months since she introduced food and Nicholson is branching out.

Dishes such as home-made chicken in tarragon and white wine sauce now feature on the menu, priced at £7.95. With a cost price of £1.50 per portion, GP is 81%.

Trade has gone from 100% wet sales to 70:30 wet:dry in the winter and 60:40 wet:dry in summer.

"Our trade has increased by about 200% since we introduced food," says Nicholson.

Nicholson's tips

Strike a balance: Work out what kind of food offering is most appropriate for your pub. We wanted to attract foreign tourists by serving traditional British dishes, but we didn't want to lose our core local customers.

Start slowly: Start with the basics, then ask your customers what else they would like.

Special offers: We do a deal offering two rump steaks and a bottle of wine for £15. It's been a great way to fill the pub, even in winter when we don't attract much trade from boaters on the canal.

Advertise: We took copies of our menu and flyers to the marinas and boat-hire companies. We also find it worthwhile to advertise in the local press.

The RISING SUN's OFFER

To introduce an offer similar to the Rising Sun's, you will need:

6-hob range

griddle

large double fryer

microwave

Related topics: Other operators

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