Pub food: business boosters

By Jo Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dishware

Drive sales: boost business
Drive sales: boost business
Ideas for boosting food sales at your pub including a discounted wine offer and a giant fish and chips competition.

Ideas for boosting food sales at your pub

Tea for a tenner

The idea:​ Co-owner Elizabeth McDermott says: "Our Tea for a Tenner offer runs for a limited period, from Monday to Thursday evenings, during a quiet month such as November. It features between two and four out of eight main courses on our daily dinner menu, which customers can order with a pint, glass of house wine or soft drink, for a total of £10. The promotion aims to attract regular and weekend customers to visit more frequently during the week, and compete with the popular dining offers from supermarkets. We advertise the added bonus of no shopping, cooking or washing up. Normal prices of dishes range from £8.90 to £11.50, so customers save up to about £5 each."

What we needed:​ "We advertise on table cards, in local press and on our monthly email using our customer database. Customers fill in their email addresses on the table cards and hand them in with the incentive of winning a meal for two in a free draw held every three months."

Business benefit:​ Tea for a Tenner saw an estimated 20% increase in covers from Monday to Thursday evenings.

Top tips:​ A customer database is a really useful, quick and free way of advertising offers. Be prepared to sell a lot of the dishes on offer, and sell fewer of those not included.

Why do it?

The offer works well as a quick boost to sales in quiet trading periods. As it's a regular event, customers look forward to the next Tea for a Tenner month.

Pub food menu cards

Where:​ The Jolly Farmers, Buckland, near Reigate, Surrey

The idea:​ Menu cards enabling customers to recreate the Jolly Farmers' dishes at home, using ingredients available in the pub's deli shop.

What was needed:​ Co-owner Paula Briscoe says: "We ensure that the dishes featured on the cards represent seasonal specials, rather than dishes from the core menu, as we don't want people choosing to eat at home instead of coming down the pub.

"Our chef prepared the list of ingredients, all of which are available in the deli shop, and we produced easy-to-follow guidelines, similar to recipes featured in the consumer/lifestyle press. It's very important to use good quality photographs, as it's often said that people 'eat with their eyes'."

Business benefits:​ "The cards show that we're confident in our product and don't mind revealing a few secrets, while showing our commitment to local ingredients by including them in all of our dishes — most cards read like a roll of honour for our great local producers. It also extends custom to our deli shop and introduces customers to a new way of shopping, reinforcing the 'buy local' message. Most of the cards feature our Just So range of jellies."

Top tip:​ Keep it simple. Use great ingredients and plain language.

Why do it?

It improves people's understanding of food and you become part of their learning experience. It also helps to drive sales.

Discounted wine offer

Where:​ the Yew Tree, Clifford's Mesne, Gloucestershire

The idea:​ Owner Caroline Todd says: "We have our own wine importing business, so it makes sense to offer wine at a reduced cost. It makes us stand out from other pubs."

How it works:​ "Our pub has four bar areas, so we converted one of those into a mini wine shop. Our customers choose a bottle of wine and pay the shop price for it plus £5."

What we needed:​ "My advertising budget is £100 a month, so we didn't spend too much on getting the message around. We advertised in our local paper and magazine, but it's mainly word of mouth that brings business in."

Business benefits:​ "We get very positive feedback from customers, although sometimes they need persuading to buy the higher-priced bottles. Our house wine works out at a similar price to other pubs, but the more expensive the bottle, the better the deal."

Why do it?

A discounted wine sales offer will help to make your pub stand out from the competition.

Giant fish & chips competition

Where:​ The Wensleydale Heifer, West Witton, North Yorkshire

The idea:​ Owner David Moss says: "We specialise in local seafood and use about a kilo of Whitby cod fillet for each of our giant fish & chips. It's so big that very few people have ever managed to eat it all, and those who do receive a certificate. They are all invited to our annual giant fish & chip event, where the winner is entitled to free fish & chips monthly at the pub for the rest of their life."

What we needed:​ "We invested in 120 special Villeroy plates, which look like newspaper and have stories about our seafood printed on them. This cost about £5,000, but it was worth it.

We've sold many of the plates to customers at cost price and they have proved so popular that we only have about 20 left. Staff are trained to tell customers about the competition and to spot likely candidates who are up for the challenge."

Business benefits:​ "The giant fish & chips costs £20 on our fixed-price menus or £9 extra on the set lunch menu. We sell about 30 a week and the competition helps to increase footfall. Diners often need an extra pint to wash down such a huge meal.

We do all our own marketing and many customers ask for the giant fish & chips when they see it advertised in our monthly newsletter. We have won awards for our seafood and imaginative publicity always helps to spread the word."

Top tips:​ "It's always worth maximising your offer. We like being wacky, without being tacky."

Why do it?

The giant meal creates a point of difference and the competition boosts footfall.

Menu Watch

PubChef's focus on pub dishes and promotions

The dish:​ Sharing starter platter

Seen at:​ The Wensleydale Heifer, West Witton, North Yorkshire

The dish:​ House speciality platter for two (£11.50 per person). The platter features 11 items, including duck spring roll, sesame tiger prawns, fish soup and cured herrings. Owner David Moss says: "Plenty of chain restaurants offer deep-fried starter platters, but it's unusual for a quality restaurant to offer this type of dish."

Details:​ Moss adds: "Sharing dessert platters are very popular, so we thought it would be worthwhile to offer our starters in the same format. As an award-winning seafood pub, we're able to offer plenty of tasty treats, such as one oyster on ice or a mini prawn cocktail. Each starter is garnished in the same way as a main course. We sell about 30 a week; it has a 65% GP and the large serving platters were the only extra outlay."

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