Curry favour with your customers

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With origins in India, curry has really found its home in Britain. Whether it's a korma or a vindaloo that gets your pulse racing and your brow...

With origins in India, curry has really found its home in Britain. Whether it's a korma or a vindaloo that gets your pulse racing and your brow sweating, it can't be denied that we are a nation of curry lovers.

Brits first got a taste for Indian dishes when India was under British rule. Upon returning back to Blighty, they craved a little of the East and the British 'curry' was born.

And the UK's spicy love affair with curry really took off in 1810, when East India Company surgeon and Indian entrepreneur Sake Dean Mahomed opened the country's first India takeaway, the Hindoostanee Coffee House in London.

Nowadays the UK curry industry is worth £3.2bn, and is firmly established as a British classic. So it's not surprising that it features on the menu at many of our pubs.

In celebrating the cuisine's place in our hearts National Curry Week​ will take place from November 21 to 27. The event was launched 1998, organised to promote the dish and raise money for charities which focus on malnourishment and poverty.

It's a great opportunity to hold events to raise money, while customers enjoy a spicy treat. What's more, it's a way of boosting trade in your pub as well by inviting customers to celebrate Britain's adopted cuisine. Here are some ways in which you can participate:

1. Have a special Curry Week menu

Chefs and publicans can create a unique menu especially for National Curry Week.

Every day during the week you could promote a different curry dish to customers at a special rate to encourage them to try a diverse range of curries.

Not only could this provide an opportunity to establish your pub as a haven for curry connoisseurs, but help confirm which dishes your customers want to see more of on your menu year round.

2. Taking the Plate Pledge

National Curry Week organisers recommend designating a particular dish on the menu for the week. Let them know details about it and tell all your

customers, highlighting that £1 per plate sold throughout the month of November will go to the Curry Tree Charitable Fund.

Sponsorship packages are available from organisers. Alternatively pubs can hold a special curry evening during National Curry Week, and simply donate the proceeds to the charity of choice, again letting local press know that the evening will be taking place.

3. Getting your curry offer right

For those thinking of setting up a curry night, foodservice group Brakes is helping independent pubs capitalise on the UK's enduring love affair with Indian cuisine with the launch of a curry club range - just in time for National Curry Week.

The offering, which comprises 12 high quality curries and a wide range of accompaniments and side dishes, has been developed to enable independents to put on authentic, competitively priced curry evenings to rival those of big chains.

And for those who don't have the facilities to create a great big curry dish, or those who want

to add a range of small bites to the offering, DelhiBites Cocktail 100-Piece Selection Pack provides caterers with a range of popular ethnic snacks, which are handmade in India following traditional recipes.

They can be oven-cooked from frozen in 20 minutes, and the range includes vegetable samosas, vegetable pakoras and onion bhajis.

The poppadom tower challenge

As part of National Curry Week, pubs could enter the organised special challenges, such as making an attempt to break the 'World Poppadom Tower record'.

Last year the award went to Poppadom Express in Southampton, who stacked a whopping 450 poppadoms. Organising your own attempt could be a novel and fun way of pulling in the punters. What's more, by inviting local press to your record attempt, you could get yourself some free publicity.

Similarly there will be attempts to break the samosa speed record, which challenges chefs to make samosas in the fastest time. By getting in touch with National Curry Week organisers, the attempt will be publicised on their website, and could generate media interest.

Curry and drinks matching

Why not take advantage of a classic pairing and promote beer sales with curries on offer? Beers of Indian origin such as Kingfisher or Cobra are traditionally sold in Indian restaurants, and Cobra launched a curry-focused £5m advertising campaign at the beginning of summer, firmly establishing it as a beer to enjoy with a curry.

And don't forget about cask beer. Brews such as India pale ales are a perfect match for spicy dishes and customers will be tempted to try them in National Curry Week if you add tasting notes and suggestions to your menu.

The same can be done with your wines. For example, Nasha offers a range that has been specially created to compliment spicy foods. The range of wines includes a fruity shiraz, an aromatic gamay rosé, and a lively sauvignon blanc. These flavours will complement the food, especially as some wines can be too acidic or too full-bodied to be drunk easily with spicy foods.

Jacob's Creek grenache shiraz also has enough weight and flavour, according to Adrian Atkinson, wine development director at Pernod Ricard, to cope with the spice. "The natural fruit sweetness of the grenache helps envelope and harmonise the heat from any chilli much in the same way milk or yogurt does - in essence it is a 'duvet' wine," he says. But Jacob's Creek shiraz rosé does the opposite as it cleanses the palate in much the same way as beer does.

Or, for something really different, there's also whisky. The tipple is praised for being able to stand up to the powerful ingredients used in dishes.

Consider starting up a curry club

If you've been thinking of setting up a weekly curry night, what better time to launch it than during National Curry Week?

JD Wetherspoon sells four million Indian meals a year - three million of these relate to the Thursday night Curry Club (menu pictured left) across its pubs, while the other one million relate to Indian meals on the main pubs' menu which are served throughout the week.

A weekly curry night can be a great way to increase trade on a slow mid-week evening. Some pubs offer different curries every week as part of their curry clubs to keep the nights fresh.

Punch Taverns-owned Chef & Brewer has held a National Curry Club Incentive award scheme for its pubs, which was sponsored by Authentic Foods. The pubs came out on top when they sold the most curries during the Chef & Brewer Thursday curry nights, with over £3,000 worth of vouchers as prizes - more incentive to get cracking on your own curry night.

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