Punch director: My frustration with pub food

By James Evison

- Last updated on GMT

Punch director: My frustration with pub food

Related tags Uk pub market Want

I have a couple of frustrations when it comes to pub food, by which I mean mainstream not the top end gastro-pubs.

Far too many mainstream pubs build the menu around the tastes of the chef or licensee rather than around the needs and wants of the local market.

A popular thing that I see is pubs trying to offer a range of food outside of their segment and getting it wrong because they need to charge more than the local market will pay. This often results in entry and exit points for main dishes being too big; an example would be fish & chips for say £8.95 and a rib eye steak for £25.  That’s a big jump for a consumer to pay for a trade up!

My advice is to keep it simple.  Stick to pub staples for all mainstream menus and introduce specials as and when you need to, in order to drive spend. Also, take time to think about the protein content of a menu, how many chicken items do you have?  The latest consumer trends of the UK pub market, from Allegra Foodservice, suggests that three or four of the top 10 items should be chicken.  Does your menu reflect this?

Another mistake I see too often, is menu choice overload.  I appreciate many ingredients are often used on multiple dishes, but the menus look too busy.  It’s confusing for consumers and makes you look like a Jack of all trades and master of none. Ask yourself why some of the dishes are on the menu, do you sell lots of them, are they good for your GP?  But do refresh your menu on a regular basis, to keep your consumers coming back.

Talking of keeping it fresh, make sure you are constantly monitoring the marketplace for the latest consumer taste trends and think how it might fit your pub. For example, one of the fastest growing trends is the State-side influence of smoked meats and BBQ flavours. There are very successful brands specialising in one product, but doing it in many different ways and very well such as Dirty Burgers, Gourmet Dogs and Chicken Shed.

And if you don’t sell very much food, start thinking about what you sell and use it as a driver to get people into your pub so you can sell more beer, for example, you could introduce a marketing promotion.

Keeping it simple also means your menus need to be clear and designed to encourage your customers to buy the products you want to sell in large quantities.  A pub I was in recently was offering three different menus, depending when they visited and where they wanted to sit.  Crazy!

In summary:

  • Make sure your menu is clear and easy for your customers to spend money on the dishes they want to buy
  • Review your entry and exit price points, making it more compelling for people to trade up
  • Don’t forget food trends, almost half the number of consumers dining out in pubs have chosen chicken

And finally, it is often better to market the middle of the week – Wednesday and Thursday – rather than Monday and Tuesday.

Paul Pavli is operations director at Punch Taverns

Related topics Menu Ideas Punch Pubs & Co

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