A study by HospitalityGEM reported that pubs were trailing behind grab-and-go operators and supermarkets in terms of available healthy options, with only four percent of respondents saying they thought pubs had the best variety.
Steven Pike, managing director of HospitalityGEM, said: “There is an obvious link to accessibility and the time it takes to sit down and eat at a pub as opposed to the increasing grab-and-go culture, particularly at lunchtime when we tend to be a bit more virtuous.
“But this also presents an opportunity for landlords and other operators to evaluate their offering of healthy food to check it’s the best it can be for their target audience, possibly through greater menu differentiation for various day parts.”
Two thirds of those questioned said healthy choices were a priority when they ate out, with 62% saying they thought healthy choices were more readily available at lunch compared to dinner (54%) and breakfast (47%).
But do pubs have the same responsibility to provide as wide a range of healthy options as grab-and-go retailers and supermarkets?
Robert Palmer, chef patron of Harveys pub the Dorset Arms, Lewes, said: “I don’t think healthy eating is about the choice you make for one meal, it’s about a continuation of meals. For instance, if you have rich cream sauces and foie gras every night you will be fat, simple as that.
“If you go to a restaurant that is renowned for healthy eating, salads and specialist diets then that’s fine but if you’re going somewhere to socialise and be with friends and have a drink you need to accept the product that the place is serving.”
He said creating a menu that reflects the seasons and quality of produce is always more important, adding: “I’ve never known a chef that’s gone out of his way to put something on a plate that’s unhealthy. I think chefs are pre-disposed to please people and they have to be very general in their tastes with what they put on the plate to please a majority."
Tony Leonard, co-owner of the Snowdrop Inn, Lewes and the Roebuck, Laughton, said: “What people assume that they’re getting and what they’re actually getting are very different things.
“People will see a burger as unhealthy, but if it’s made from steak and nothing but steak then it’s a perfectly healthy option. It’s what you add to it – if it’s full of industrial fillers then it’s a nightmare.”