THE RELATIONSHIP between pub food and the major food brands can be a complex one. While there's no question of customers not knowing exactly which brand of beer is in their glass, pubs tend to be a little more circumspect when it comes to the brand of chips or cheesecake on offer.
Part of the reasoning behind that is the 'don't ask, don't tell' approach that most pubs and customers apply to the question of how much of the menu is bought in and how much is prepared from scratch in the kitchen.
This summer saw Spirit Group, the managed arm of Punch Taverns, take a step into uncharted waters by adding some branding into the new menu at its 103 Two for One pubs. In a link-up with Heinz, the pubs drew attention to the fact that two dishes were made using the newly-launched HP Steak Sauce. The dishes were billed as the 10oz Rodeo Ribeye steak and the 8oz Rodeo Burger.
Spirit head of food Paul Farr says: "We could see the opportunity to add branding to the menu and both dishes carry the HP logo on the menu. There is an added perception of value with a recognised brand and product."
Paul's confidence in the uses of the HP branding was confirmed by limited customer trials before the full launch of the summer menu. Nevertheless, with steak and burger sales important to the overall success of Two for One, the sales impact was closely monitored.
Before the launch of the Rodeo Burger, the existing 8oz bacon and cheese burger accounted for 55 per cent of burger sales at Two for One. Now, the standard burger accounts for 31.5 per cent of sales with the Rodeo Burger accounting for 23 per cent. Sales of burgers overall have grown by 1.5 per cent since the introduction of the new menu, and the Rodeo Burger has taken sales directly from the 8oz bacon and cheese burger - which sells for £1 less.
The 10oz Rodeo Ribeye steak now accounts for 8.8 per cent of the red meat sales at Two for One, compared to 6.6 per cent for the 10oz ribeye it replaced - which sold for £1.15 less. Overall red meat sales have grown by 5.6 per cent.
Paul says: "These dishes give our customers great brand confidence. It's a different approach to provenance."