Pub food: business boosters

By Jo Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Business benefits Wine Menu Wine list

Pigs: reared for pub use
Pigs: reared for pub use
Ideas for driving food and drink sales at your pub including a karaoke room, pig rearing and a game and wine evening. Karaoke room Where: Columbo...

Ideas for driving food and drink sales at your pub including a karaoke room, pig rearing and a game and wine evening.

Karaoke room

Where: Columbo Group's Paradise By Way Of Kensal Green, Kensal Green, London

The idea: Private karaoke room with waiter service. Promotions manager Shelley Martin-Light says: "Karaoke is so popular and it's a great way of upselling, as you can encourage customers to eat and drink while they're having fun. Bookings are for a minimum of two hours, or three on Friday and Saturday nights, and the room can accommodate up to 20 people.

"Customers can pre-order from our canapé menu or sharing platter menu on the night, and we sell buckets of beer and cider, cocktails and wine, and spirits by the bottle. A call button in the room allows customers to summon their host when they wish to order."

What we needed: "We had a games room on the first floor but it wasn't making money, so we decided to use some of the space to create the room. We installed a plasma TV and speakers and some soundproofing of the room was required. Each booking has a dedicated member of staff so we usually need to bring in an extra person, but the hire fee and spend from the room covers the cost of this. There is some admin involved, but once you get the hang of it, it takes minutes.

"Our canapé menu is already available for private parties and the platter menu is on offer in the bar so there was no extra work involved in providing a suitable food offering for the room."

Business benefits: "The room has been open since August and, on average, it is booked out eight times a week, more over the festive season. Hire charges are £30 per hour and £40 per hour on a Friday and Saturday night. Sunday is a massive karaoke day and we are getting a lot of Christmas lunch/dinner bookings, with karaoke before or afterwards."

Top tip: "Buy the right song package for your customer base — we are a late-night London venue so we bought a package allowing us to add 50 of the latest chart hits each month."

Pig rearing

Where: The Tommyfield, Kennington, London

The idea: Rearing pigs for use

on Renaissance Pubs' menus. Operations director Mark Reynolds says: "We have been keen on the idea of rearing our own animals for a few years because we are passionate about British food and its traceability. However, the financial and logistical aspects of starting our own farm from scratch made us realise we'd be far better off going into partnership with an established small farm.

"The pigs are reared for us and we use their meat on the menus at all five of our pubs; from hog roasts at the Avalon to spit-roast pork belly at the Stonhouse and middle white roast pork loin with apple and cider sauce at the Tommyfield."

What we needed: "Lock's Drove Farm in Hampshire was established about 18 months ago by Jamie Williams and he has been rearing pigs for us throughout that time. We eased ourselves in very gently with a small herd of Kune Kune and Tamworth pigs because we wanted to make sure that we got it just right. We paid Jamie £130 upfront for the pigs and then contributed to the transport and butchery costs."

Business benefits: "The benefit is all about our integrity and involvement in the produce we sell. Our side of the partnership is not a money-making exercise, but rather we simply aim to maintain margins while improving the quality of the meat we offer in our pubs. The plan is to source all our chickens, pigs and lambs from the farm in the very near future."

Top tip: "Find a like-minded farmer who is willing to work closely with you and alter/expand production to fulfil your requirements."

Chef's table

Where: Only Running Footman, Mayfair, London

The idea: Private kitchen with chef and waiter, allowing customers

to host their own exclusive get-together. Barnaby Meredith, owner of parent company the Meredith Group, says: "We launched the chef's table back in 2007, but wanted to offer something more private and special than other tables I've seen, which are usually within the main kitchen." Situated on its own floor of the pub,

the private, more domestic-style kitchen has its own toilet and facilities, including TV on request. Available 365 days of the year, customers can choose their own menu, wines and chef from across the Meredith Group's three pub kitchens. They are also supplied with their own host for the duration of the booking and can engage with the chef, asking questions or assisting with the cooking, or sit back and watch their meal being cooked in front of them, if they prefer.

What we needed: "A fair amount of liaising with the customer is required to ensure they get what they want. We have a selection of sample menus and chef profiles for customers to choose from, but we will also work with them to create a bespoke menu. The room accommodates a maximum of 16 people, with a minimum spend of £55 per person."

Business benefits: "On average we take five bookings for the table each week and the initiative generates between £50,000 and £60,000 gross for us per annum. Bookings are made across the board — birthday parties, hen and stag events — but also often by corporate customers for business meetings. Many bookings are regular ones. The table also acts as a great incentive for our chefs as well as a good training opportunity; if they are doing well we will put them on the table list, which allows them the opportunity to get out of the main kitchen for a day and engage with their diners."

Top tip: "Never dictate. Engage with your customer and be prepared to be flexible to give them exactly what they want."

Game and wine evening

Where: Ingham Swan, Ingham, Norfolk

The idea: Offering a regular programme of food and wine evenings. Chef-patron Daniel

Smith says: "We chose game this time as it is seasonal, and offered a six-course set menu, with each course matched with a challenge of wines, for £55 per person.

We have been open for just over six months and the aim of the dinners is to make sure our customers have a wide range of offering. Dishes included roast wood pigeon and partridge with quince aïoli and foie gras matched with a 2007 Villa du Clos Pinot Noir versus a 2007 Rioja Crianza Heredad Ugarte. Also on the menu was haunch

of venison with juniper, confit beetroot and wild mushrooms paired with a 2007 Chianti Classico Isole e Olena and a 2008 Malbec Felino Vina Cobos."

What we needed: "We worked with Premium Wine Collections, of Norwich. It supplies about 25% of our wine list, matching wines with the menu I designed. One of its directors came on the night to provide tasting notes. We advertised in-house and via e-flyers to our customer database. Premium Wine also emailed its customers about the event."

Business benefits: "We limited the number of places to 30 to seat everyone in the same room and sold all spaces. The event wasn't a big money-maker, but it gave customers confidence that what we offer is good and, while not cheap, gives value for money.

The aim is to roll out a programme of monthly dinners, excluding the summer months, when we have high seasonal trade."

Top tip: "Don't skimp. Customers expect good value for money."

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