Hasty but tasty

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Lucy Britner looks at ideas for maximising snack sales Thank goodness the Earl of Sandwich decided his slice of beef was making his hands too greasy...

Lucy Britner looks at ideas for maximising snack sales

Thank goodness the Earl of Sandwich decided his slice of beef was making his hands too greasy to play cards and asked his butler to put it between two slices of bread.

Of course the sandwich has come a long way since then, with panini, wraps, baguettes and a wide range of different breads now offered in the majority of pubs.

Research suggests that two billion sandwiches are purchased outside the home every year. The best thing about a sarnie for pub caterers is that it only takes minutes to prepare and it delivers a decent GP.

As Unilever Foodsolutions marketing director Susan Gregory says: "Light bites and sandwiches are an absolute menu must for pub chefs committed to increasing the profit potential of their food offering. There is no denying the vast spectrum of customer groups and passing trade to whom this menu section will appeal."

"Snacks such as deli-boards and grazing dishes are also growing in popularity and are a simple, but profitable way of providing food beyond the core hours."

If you haven't started a food offering in your pub, but it's something you are considering, sandwiches are a great place to begin - and you don't need a chef to rustle up a superb sarnie.

Good quality bread and fillings are essential - contact your local baker to suggest striking a deal and offer to promote them on your menu.

One way to ensure a sandwich offer stands out from the crowd is to offer products customers wouldn't bother to prepare at home.

Cherry Valley development manager Andrew Farren recommends duck. He says: "Duck works extremely well with any fruit flavour, especially in a reduced or chutney form."

Andrew suggests fillings including sliced

confit duck with caramelised red onion and rocket in a baguette or US-style sliced honey-roasted duck with crispy bacon, mayonnaise and salad on a triple deck of toasted white loaf. Other ideas include shredded smoked duck in a sticky orange, chilli and bourbon glaze with red pepper and mixed salad wrap.

Classic British dishes and flavours are big business for pubs. Dishes such as fish-finger sarnies, BLTs and pork-and-stuffing rolls will add interest to menus. HA! HA! Bar & Canteen does a chef's own posh fish-finger sandwich, served with summer leaves, plum tomato, tartare sauce and lemon (£6.25).

You might want to take a leaf out of fantastic Brighton-based Bills café menu which offers a wealth of sexy snacks. Favourites on offer include boiled eggs and soldiers, pancakes and eggs Benedict.

Delicious snacks on toast are also a big menu feature: Bill's tasty toppings include baked beans, cheese, grilled vine tomatoes and grilled Portobello mushrooms.

Alternatively, at Konstam at the Prince Albert, in London's Kings Cross, an omelette and glass of wine is one of the popular offers.

So why not spice up your offer by introducing a sandwich or omelette of the day? Base the sandwich or omelette filling around a particular theme, such as fish on Friday, and pair the offering with a drink. You could even think up a name for your offering, such as "the Firkin's Fast Food", or sell the combo for the same price as a packet of cigarettes. This will be a great way to pick up passing trade from people who want a quick snack, especially if your pub is near an office-block or a building-site.

Sandwiches and snacks are just the ticket for sporting events. Punters enjoy having a pint in one hand and a decent sarnie or burger in the other.

And there's an even bigger case for hand-held food now that customers can't hold a cigarette in that other hand.

The English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) has come up with the "half- timer": a beef chuck roast joint that can be carved off and served in a buttered roll with horseradish or mustard.

Foodservice project manager Hugh Judd says: "Clearly, licensees want to maximise sales during big matches, but with a packed-out pub and staff under pressure to meet additional demand, it can be difficult to offer people anything to eat apart from crisps and snacks."

The boneless chuck roast is cooked for about six hours and rolls can be buttered during the first half of the game.

Deli-boards provide a simple, but profitable snack. Pub group Merchant Inns has been

offering deli-boards at its Newbury pub the Carnarvon Arms for a year.

Executive chef Rob Clayton says: "We have a deli-style sharer and sell about 30 platters a week at £6.95." Rob says the boards are popular with couples popping in for a drink or for people looking for a light lunch.

He adds: "Quite often customers just want a snack with a drink. We also offer olives and

pistachio nuts in little kiln pots. Deli-boards are a great way to satisfy customer needs and tempt them into staying at the pub to enjoy another drink."

Peach Pub Company, pioneer of the pub deli-

board, has started offering Indian deli-boards

at the Swan in Salford, near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. With the absence of an Indian takeaway near the pub there was a gap in the market for good-quality Indian food.

Licensee Andrew Coath says: "Salford has no Indian takeaway, but we know that the locals love spicy ethnic dishes - if these are added to the specials board, they fly out of the door. We took the Peach signature deli-board and created an Indian version, with a lamb pastry parcel, tandoori duck, venison pickle, chilli white peas, chutneys and papad, supplied by top chef Cyrus Todiwala. We will sell more than 1,000 this year and customer feedback has been tremendous." The boards cost £8 each.

Combos are another simple but profitable snack for pubs to offer. Moy Park Foodservice marketing manager Matt Godbold says: "Combos are the perfect solution for a late-night menu, especially between Thursday and Sunday when consumers choose them to enjoy while they are out with friends."

"Licensees can help to prevent customers leaving the pub early to pick up a takeaway by offering a snack menu, more likely to be consumed at that time of night. By using pre-prepared quality food that any member of staff can prepare, you can keep your customers eating and drinking in the bar."

Salads are another good snack option. The Ring O' Bells at Thornton, near Bradford in West Yorkshire, has recently started offering medium and main course-sized salad portions. Joint head chef Jason Howlett says: "We do a range of salads in two sizes - for example, duck salad comes as a medium portion for £4.95 and as a main- course portion for £8.95. We started this about six weeks ago, as a trial for the summer."

Bel Foodservice suggests salad ideas including Spanish salad with Port Salut and Niçoise salad with Leerdammer cheese.

Chips, those little cut-potato lovelies, have to be the all-time favourite pub snack. These days you can order cheesy chips, chilli chips, garlic mayo chips, shoe-strings, chunky chips, triple-cooked and chips on the side. But with consumers increasingly watching their waist-lines, healthy options are a must.

Farm Frites Nature's Goodness brand contain 50% less fat, 70% less saturated fat and 30% less calories than the average chip. As part of its Skip to It promotion, Farm Frites will donate 10p to the Children's Heart Foundation for every product bought. Farm Frites has devised plenty of different recipes to make chips and wedges more exciting - for example, pizza-topped wedges with a healthy-eating tomato pasta sauce, mozzarella pearls and Italian herbs.

If you make your own chips, boast about it. People love home-made chips, so make sure you highlight them on your menu.

Market analysis: sandwiches in branded pubs

l Fewer sandwich variants are offered by pub chains, perhaps indicating operators' desire to drive up food spend

l Chicken is the most popular wrap filling

l Hot-coated chicken is becoming increasingly popular, using both Southern Fried and herby goujons and possibly

mirroring the high-street KFC brand offering

l Demand for duck as a wrap filling

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