Cheese: Winning ways to boost sales

By Sheila McWattie

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Best food pub Cheese

Fromage & Friends night: Customers are invited to add unusual selections to the sharing cheeseboard
Fromage & Friends night: Customers are invited to add unusual selections to the sharing cheeseboard
From a 'fromage and friends' night to homemade ricotta, Pub Food looks at seven different cheese-themed events and recipe ideas.

Cheese of choice

The versatility of Butler’s Tasty Lancashire makes it the cheese of choice for Eagle & Child executive chef Eve Townson, who uses it for her award-winning sausages, home-made vegetarian pie, and cheese platter at the Thwaites lease in Ramsbottom, Lancashire.

Townson’s recipe, which combines the cheese with her home-made sultana black pudding for sausages produced by her local butcher Albert Matthews, recently won gold in the BPEX Food Service Sausage of the Year competition.

The pub’s Bomber pie, made with Tasty Butler’s, onion and Thwaites’ Lancaster Bomber ale, adds to the hearty winter menu, while the cheese also features on the pub’s Pennine cheese platter. Recognition of the pub’s food reputation increased recently with its award for Best Food Pub at the Manchester Food and Drink Awards.

Friends of fromage

Tuesday evening trade rises by about 20% at the Griffin, in Halstead, Essex, when participants in its weekly Fromage & Friends night are invited to add their own cheesy contributions including unusual cheeses, home-made chutneys and crackers to the sharing cheeseboard and staff bring homemade pickles and chutneys. At 8pm, the board is moved to the bar, with everyone invited to tuck in. About 30 customers of all ages attend, from the pub’s Stitch & Bitch knitting group members to younger visitors.

Manager Gilly Ryan says: “Our Cheddar chums come in specifically for the cheeseboard and often stay for a chat and extra drink. It's a chance for us to acknowledge their ongoing support, while they love sharing drink-matching tips and trying each others’ recommendations.

Table service

The recent launch in mid-October of a Sunday cheese table, using a tall feature table beside the entrance to the restaurant area at Young’s managed pub the County Arms in Wandsworth, south-west London, was deemed an immediate hit.

This weekly offering is intended to add to the pub's already strong Sunday lunch reputation by introducing a bit of theatre, a talking point and top quality cheese selection, with various guest cheeses and artisan breads on offer each week.

Comparing sales figures for the table’s first Sunday with those of cheese, biscuits, bread and olives, the pub team saw a significant rise in customers ordering those items, with 18 orders being served, compared to just 11 over the previous three Sundays.

Boxing clever

Reflecting its proprietors’ profound passion for seasonal and local produce, the Mill Race, in Walford, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, Great British Wine Pub of the Year regional winner for Wales & the West Midlands 2014, invites customers to sample its top quality items at home with hampers and gift boards.

Customers’ discovery of this quality food also benefits suppliers and improves the pub’s relationships with local businesses.

“As we’re on the borders of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Wales, we’re spoilt for choice, so our head chef hand-selects cheeses for pairing with locally sourced pickles, chutneys, cheese biscuits and Port,” says a spokesperson. “Most of our hamper sales happen during the Christmas season. Out of 136 sold last year, 74 were cheese hampers.”

Portable pleasures

At Hall & Woodhouse’s managed-pub the Black Horse, in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, manager Judy Evans welcomes locals’ ideas. An unusual cheese & Port event in March, suggested by regulars, was so successful that it’s being repeated as a festive afternoon on 21 December.

Around 25 locals bring cheeses from the local farm shop and delicatessens to match with the pub’s Smith Woodhouse Ruby Port, and their own white Port.

“It’s important to listen to what your customers want – sometimes they suggest innovative ideas you wouldn’t have thought of. It boosts our business to encourage participation in events, as people always spread the word, and it gives them a sense of ownership and loyalty. Our community events also reflect Hall & Woodhouse's history as a family business,” says Evans.

Challenging cheeseboard

The second consecutive August bank holiday cider & cheese festival hosted by Laine Pub Co’s the Victory, in central Brighton, saw Sussex challenging the cheeseboards of Europe, accompanied by local folk bands, with a marked increase in footfall, brand awareness and revenue, boosted by social media engagement and advertising.

Over three days a “luxury cheeseboard” of local varieties and European classics were matched with eight craft ciders from Middle Farm in Lewes, East Sussex.

Manager Anthony Keegan says: “The festival is a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on the traditional and fruit-flavoured cider boom while supporting local businesses and suppliers.

“It complemented our busy evening trade and boosted afternoon footfall, attracting more than 200 individual customers across the event, each spending around £10 on food and drink.”

Reliable ricotta

Making their own ricotta and publicising their recipe for stinging nettle tortellini with homemade ricotta and spinach on their pub’s website is just one of the strategies used by Peter Lumber and Clarke Oldfield to ensure that the Newbury, their Spirit lease in the eponymous Berkshire town, is firmly on the map for its in-house, eye-catching ingredients.

Chef and co-tenant Oldfield says: “Making our own cheese and letting customers know how to do it themselves sends an encouraging message about our ethos, underlining the fact that we believe strongly in the value of in-house ingredients.

“Ricotta is economical and quite simple to make, and this recipe and dish definitely help to get customers talking and coming back for more.”

Find the recipe at​.

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