1. Running a tight ship
At this year’s Scotch Egg Challenge, held at Young’s managed pub the Ship in Wandsworth, Michael Harrison, head chef at the Cornwall Project and currently in residence at Homerton’s Adam & Eve, beat 16 contenders with his hog’s pudding Cornish Scotch egg, while head chef Gina Hopkins from Nick Gibson’s Drapers Arms took second place with her black pudding with pork.
Partnership with the Ship, which hosts the challenge so generously and effectively, is my favourite aspect of this competition," says Gibson. "It’s great to see a pub team coming up with such imaginative ways not only to host interesting events for their customers but to embrace their peers and help publicise the quality and range of pub food across the broader industry."
2. Small is beautiful
Manager Steve Dunn at Newcastle’s Broad Chare – winner of the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015 Editor’s Award and Best New Entry for Pubs – advocates tapas style bar snacks that maximise choice, service speed and affordability. "Offering small plates means minimum waiting for snacks and a pint, increasing dwell time in more leisurely periods if customers return after feeling satisfied with our quality snacks and finding great beers to match, such as Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil," says Dunn. "Our oysters (£2 each), delivered by Lindisfarne’s only licensed oyster supplier, go down particularly well with Black Velvet: a 125ml glass of Champagne, topped up with Guinness in a half-pint glass (£9). Our bar sells around 150 oysters weekly – groups love being able to order their chosen amount."
3. Right route
Going that extra mile to provide snacks can increase repeat trade significantly. "You can’t beat a warm scone fresh from the oven," says Wesley Chamberlain, chef-proprietor at the White Swan at Wighill, in the village of Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. "I’m happy to open early to give passing cyclists a well-deserved rest. Groups can ring a couple of days in advance with their numbers and arrival time. For £4.50 each member gets tea or coffee, a warm home-made scone with plum jam from our kitchen garden and home-made banana granola for an extra energy boost.
"Our light-option all-day menu increases awareness of the White Swan as a rural food-focused destination, and includes scrambled eggs and toast (£4.95) and American pancakes, smoked bacon and maple syrup (£6)."
4. Get stuffed
A giant shark greets customers at Annie Spaziano’s Rhode Island-themed Ocean State Tavern, downstairs at Annie’s Burger Shack & Freehold in Nottingham. And her recent addition of an Ocean Snack Bar brings authentic East Coast flavours within even easier reach of the city’s many casual diners. "Jaws was filmed close to my Rhode Island birthplace," says Spaziano, "and we hope our snacks catch our customers’ imaginations as much as that iconic film has done. Our beers are different too – Newport-based Tiny Rebel’s Urban IPA goes down well with our snacks, especially our burgers, which come in three versions: vegan, vegetarian and meaty. Big favourites in our new snack bar are Rhode Island stuffies: baked, stuffed clams at £2.95 for one shell; £5.95 for two."
5. Continental choice
Lacking kitchens in several of its six outlets, Northbar group in Leeds has traditionally sourced satisfying snacks that help its menus stand out. The management team, including senior chefs, recently visited Ghent and Brussels, finding plenty of inspiration for snacks and beers. Creative snacks and breads on boards are ideal for serving and sharing with the group’s extensive drinks selection. Sharing plates of cheese and meat are served with crusty bread, celery salt, gherkins, pickled onions, caramelised onion chutney and French mustard. Reliance fennel salami – flavoured with fennel, black pepper and chilli – and beer jelly are among the new favourites, with Aecht Schlenkeria Rauchbier – a German ‘smoked’ beer, recommended to customers as a particularly good match for the salami.
6. Upward slide
ETM Group operations director James Lyon Shaw maintains "there are no rules for sliders". The Slider Decider competition, hosted by ETM’s the Gun, in London’s Docklands, "demonstrated how businesses can offer variety and quality by creating highly bespoke options for this firmly established bar snack, using their own iconic ingredients and cooking styles," says Lyon Shaw. "The second annual Slider Decider was highly anticipated, creating a great social media buzz.
All 260 tickets sold out within a week, attracting locals, regulars, foodies, burger enthusiasts, press and bloggers."
"The winning slider from MasterChef 2011 champion Tim Anderson embraced creativity, innovative thinking and amazing taste combinations, while benefits for competitors included national brand exposure before, during and after the event."
7. Choose churros
At Aoife Sweeney and Annie Gelpey’s La Choza Mexican kitchen in Brighton’s Hare & Hounds, bar snacks are available until late, optimising the opportunity to tempt customers to increase their food and drink spend by focusing on sweet treats. Alongside a wide range of savoury dishes such as burritos and tostadas, with a choice of fillings, are dulce de leche churros (£5.50). "These sweet churros give our bar menu a valuable point of difference," says Sweeney, "and get new customers talking and returning.
"They’re simple to serve and go down well with hot and cold beverages. Our daytime and wider dining trade benefit as many customers choose churros during a quick meeting, then return for full meals, to enjoy them as a dessert."
Beef up your offer with mini classics
Hugh Judd, EBLEX foodservice project manager, recommends: “A good way to develop a snack and sharing menu is to scale down the portion sizes of popular favourites and make them into a format that is easy for people to eat with their fingers, or just a fork.”
He suggest dishes such as tortillas topped with chilli beef mince, jalapeno peppers, sour cream and guacamole or lamb kebabs served in pitta and mini lamb or beef burgers placed on small rounds of bread served with a tangy tomato salsa or garnished with a simple minted mayonnaise. Another idea is to offer a big bowl of tasty lamb cutlets, chops or kebabs with a relish or dipping sauce as a sharing option.
For more recipe ideas visit www.eblextrade.co.uk.
Pork is perfect bar snack ingredient
Sharing food is a big part of the casual dining scene as diners increasingly look for a fun, sociable, yet cost effective way of eating out. BPEX's Tony Goodger said: “Pork is a great flavour carrier and so versatile that it is ideal for sharing platters. Including a range of mini dishes from the main menu, such as chilli pork nachos with sour cream, mini Thai pork bites and a small rack of slow-cooked BBQ pork ribs, will give customers plenty to choose from and also help busy kitchens reduce waste and preparation time.”
Charcuterie is ideal for customers looking for a light bar snack or sharing platter; locally cured and cooked meats, fresh and smoked sausages, pâtés, black puddings and salamis will add regional flavour to the menu. Simply serve with pickles, local cheese and freshly baked bread.
For pubs looking to deliver alternative ideas, Tony suggests including tapas-inspired plates or Dim Sum selections utilising cost effective pork cuts such as shoulder, collar and pork mince to deliver taste and value. Add to this a range of mini cocktail style sausages in a variety of flavours..
Pork pies, mini cold eating pies, gourmet sausage rolls, Scotch eggs and pasties can also add real interest to bar snack menus and offer good returns too.
Tony said: “Savoury pies and Scotch eggs are popular light bites and can be incorporated into small plates or sharing platters with the introduction of other artisan products, including breads, cheeses, chutneys and pickles.”
He also recommends pulled pork as a profitable filling for snacks. He said: “The increased popularity of Mexican inspired food and pulled pork is providing pubs with great opportunities to extend their snacks menu. Pulled pork, taken from slow cooked joints, can be served hot or cold and with different sauces – apple or barbecue for example – to keep sandwich menus fresh and enticing.”