Top tips for pubs on outdoor cooking and barbecuing

By Lesley Foottit

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Black rock grill Barbecue

Smokin': Outdoor catering can be a winner for pubs in summer
Smokin': Outdoor catering can be a winner for pubs in summer
It doesn’t take much sun to tempt vitamin D-deprived Brits outside and most people’s first thought is finding a good beer garden, with dining alfresco a close second.

Two in three adults ate food cooked on a barbecue in the summer of 2010, according to Mintel, and the pub sector is the closest eating-out competitor to home-barbecuing. But pubs need to offer something more special these days to tempt people out of their back gardens.

As long as there are people in the vicinity, there is no such thing as an unpopular barbecue. Once the cooking smells start wafting over the crowd, few people can resist queuing up themselves.

The Yard Bar & Kitchen in Cardiff put on its first barbie last month on the day Wales beat France in the Six Nations rugby union tournament to win the Grand Slam. It was a great success, with the SA Brain pub selling out of food by 5pm, before the match had even ended. All furniture was removed from inside and outside to make space for more people, and finger food such as filled baguettes and pies with chips was also served inside.

The barbecue took £1,300 from 400 covers in four hours, giving the pub an overall profit of around £900. A similar number of people ordered food from the kitchen inside. General manager Jon Adams says: “The business was at capacity all day. People started queuing at the outside barbecue two hours before the match began. All food inside and outside was served on plastic trays so that people could stand and eat.

“We doubled our usual food covers and we will definitely do a similar thing again, but only on matchdays as we need the high volume of customers to war-rant the equipment hire and extra staffing costs.

“Once you cover the cost of the equipment it is pretty good going from then. It went better than expected and we could have gone on, but I had been hesitant to order too much food and be left with wastage. Next time I’ll be able to order stock more accurately to last all day and make the most of the occasion.”

Beer festivals
Pubs can really cash in during beer festivals by attracting large numbers of people. Logistically, feeding so many can be a problem and outdoor catering provides the perfect answer. A big garden helps, but is not vital.

Whiting & Hammond pubs often put on beer festivals and other outdoor events. The Little Brown Jug, near Tonbridge, Kent, is holding a four-day event over the Diamond Jubilee weekend with lots of ales on offer, as well as a hog roast and burgers. The pub owns all the necessary equipment.

The 100-cover garden is a big draw for guests and will soon be more enticing with the delivery of three heated and lit pavilions. Each will be situated in the centre of the garden and seat six to eight guests.

“The foundations and wiring have all been done, so they will be up and running soon,” says deputy manager Andy Mutter. “They are a bit different and unusual and will better utilise the massive beer garden we have. There is also a lot of potential for their use even when the weather is cooler.”

The pavilions will be served by the normal menu and hired out at any time of day for anything from business meetings to anniversaries and birthday parties. A rate has yet to be decided.

Alfresco experience
With everyone looking for a seat outside to enjoy a meal in the sun, it makes sense to add a point of difference to draw the crowds. DIY barbecue tables are a great way to attract larger groups. The tables seat six to eight people who barbecue their own food. They can be an ice-breaker for smaller groups or couples too, as they sit and cook together.

A Black Rock Grill is a way to bring a similar experience to customers at a lower cost. Diners select the meal they want and it is brought out sizzling on a hot rock within minutes of ordering — ready for the diner to cook it how they like.

A Black Rock Grill menu can offer snacks or meals without adding strain to the kitchen, offering the likes of steaks, burgers, seafood, fajitas and vegetarian dishes. It is also healthy as no fat or oil is used and it does not require ventilation, so can be done outside. The grill is available in 30, 60 and 100-rock packages, while the Roxy Combi includes a 27-rock deck with a stone-baked pizza deck. Visit

Top 10 BBQ tips

  • Season the grill with olive oil and rosemary before starting
  • Bring meat to room temperature before cooking to cook quicker and drain fat better
  • Add a powdered spice to the meat to spice it up
  • When using coals let them turn grey before starting
  • Choose a sheltered spot to eliminate wind that may delay cooking time
  • Always have a bucket of water on standby
  • When grilling in the evening ensure there is ample lighting
  • A clean grill burns better and doesn’t leave a bad taste on food
  • When using wooden skewers always soak well in water beforehand
  • Marinate overnight, but baste the meat during the last five to 10 minutes of grilling

Source: Ben Bartlett, food consultant & barbecue champion

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