Sheila McWattie looks at how to make the most of confectionery in your pub including beer and chocolate matching, chocolate drinks and themed bedrooms.
Mitch Adams, of the Thatchers Arms, Mount Bures, Essex, reaches an unexpected confectionery market: "Sweets likely to prove popular with children, such as strawberry milk bottles and Dairy Milk bars, go down well with adults. Liquorice Allsorts are on the bar just now; we'll have Smarties soon. We serve our sweets in paper bags or on a plate for 50p — I got the idea from Brighton's Hop Poles, which sold delicious sherbet lemons." Tony Leonard, Hop Poles licensee and co-owner of the Snowdrop, in Lewes, East Sussex, vouches for his confectionery's contribution to a "warm, happy, playful, cosy atmosphere".
Also in Brighton, the Barley Mow is appreciated for old-school treats such as flying saucers and sherbet fountains, which manager Boyd Raison says help keep customers content. And the Tuck Shop at the family-friendly White Horse, in Whepstead, Suffolk, is a haven of sweet nostalgia.
Beer and choc matching
BitterSweet Partnership, set up to change beer's relationship with women, recommends beer and chocolate as a food match "made in heaven". "No wine can match chocolate puddings nearly as well as the right beer," says a BitterSweet spokeswoman. "The bitterness of beer helps the drink hold its own when paired with chocolate, and citrus flavours, such as orange and chocolate, are a popular flavour mix."
Mouth-watering combinations recommended by BitterSweet include Kasteel Cru Rosé with white chocolate-dipped strawberries, and Blue Moon, a Belgian-style wheat beer brewed in Canada with oats, orange peel & coriander, with a white chocolate-topped orange sponge cake. Why not offer a beer recommendation on your menu to help drive sales?
Wine remains a favourite with many sweet-lovers: the 2010 Autumn Wine Festival at Amersham's Hit or Miss Inn, in Buckinghamshire, featured tasting sessions using wines from all over the world matched with delicious chocolates from local
artisan chocolate manufacturers. Visit www.ourpubs.co.uk
At the Mill Inn, in Boston, Lincolnshire, licensee Tracy Topliss has introduced a Toblerone, peach schnapps and cream fondue, served with home-made fudge, chocolate brownie, marshmallows and fresh fruit. "It's simple, effective and makes a great dipping dessert — an eye-catching indulgence for a couple, or a whole table, to share.
"As soon as we sell one, there's a big demand, because it's so eye-catching, featuring an impressive fondue set and a medley of colourful fruit." It's lucrative as well as luscious. Hot chocolate fondue at the Farmyard Inn, Youlgrave, Derbyshire, is served with fresh fruits and marshmallows for two to share at £9.50.
And as a special winter treat, the menu at the Ginger Pig, in Hove, East Sussex, offers nostalgic toasted marshmallow with coconut ice cream, pistachios, passion-fruit jelly and mango (£6).
Bournemouth's 13-room Chocolate Boutique Hotel was founded by Chocolate Delight, which introduced some of the UK's first chocolate fountains. Chocolate weekends include two workshops. Guided by an experienced chocolatier, you will cut, roll, dip and decorate your creations, before packaging up to 50 truffles to take home. The hotel also offers the opportunity to purchase a chocolate workshop licence, enabling you to run similar events in your own premises. Go to www.chocolatedelight.co.uk for details.
Licensees interested in learning more about quality products can contact the Academy of Chocolate, set up in 2005 to improve the standard and knowledge of chocolate in the UK by promoting understanding, from bean to bar. Visit www.academyofchocolate.org.uk
Chocolate drink offers
If chocolate drinks are likely to tempt your clientele, take a tip from Edinburgh's Candy Kitchen + Bar, which lives up to its name with coffee, chocolate syrup & Cherry Marnier, topped with fresh cream & chocolate (£4.25). At Soho's Bar Chocolate, treats range from milkshakes with rich dairy chocolate ice cream (£4) to chocolate Martini cocktails (£8).
Home-made chocolate truffles or fudge also encourage spend and are sure to leave customers with a good impression. Dave Mothersill, head chef at Hove's Ginger Pig, started offering home-made chocolate truffles when he joined two-and-a-half years ago, and now also offers home-made fudge in response to customer demand.
"Home-made truffles and fudge are a win-win offer," says Mothersill. "They're inexpensive to make and help you to keep standards high when you use excellent quality ingredients — ours are made with Valrhona chocolate."
Two chocolate-themed bedrooms are on offer at the Wensleydale Heifer, in West Witton, North Yorkshire. Owner David Moss says: "Both are filled daily with complementary chocolate bars and various chocolate paraphernalia. Both rooms run at about 98% occupancy and can be fully booked at weekends up to six months in advance. We've had extensive press coverage about the rooms and both chocolate-themed rooms feature heavily on many internet chat forums, which helps to attract a flow of potential customers to our website.
Our second, which is aptly named Chocolate Heaven, opened on 1 August last year to rapturous approval. It features our own chocolate version of the Sistine Chapel, with hand-painted angels gently floating above the bath, holding Galaxy chocolate bars of course." Go to www.wensleydaleheifer.co.uk.
Try tuning into nostalgia by serving sweets on arrival, with the bill or alongside hot beverages. Peach Pubs has found that serving Smarties with coffee at its pubs, including the Richard Onslow in Cranleigh, Surrey, is a big talking-point.
At the recently refurbished Kings Arms Inn in Montacute, Somerset, owner Gye Dibben is a fan of providing chocolates in the pub's rooms. And at the Cary Arms, in Babbacombe, south Devon, guests are greeted with Cary Arms rock.
Sales and marketing manager Jo DiCarlo says: "It's a lovely surprise for guests to find Cary Arms rock on their pillows, and we also leave little rock sweets on their beds while they're having dinner. It was owner Lana de Savary's idea to provide treats, reminiscent of the days of the traditional English seaside, as a special gift that perfectly suits our beautiful coastal location."
As a marketing tool in your pub, or at a special event such as a wedding, the individual touch represented by personalised confectionery goes down well with customers. Launching your own brand can boost your business significantly and doesn't have to cost a fortune. The Rock People, in Lancing, West Sussex (www.therockpeople.co.uk) provide rock for the Cary Arms as well as many larger companies. Andy Wignall founded the company in 2004, drawing on experience in Brighton Pier rock shops and building on the idea of wedding rock favours. Wignall is "happy to match anything that needs a logo, right down to the pantone colours".
For a range of confectionery ideas, contact the Sweet Team at www.thesweetteam.co.uk, which produces personalised goodies from chocolates to rock, including logo lollies, fortune cookies, chewing gum and seasonal treats, as well as promotional drinks.