1) It ticks a lot of boxes
For busy pub chefs looking to cater for an increasing amount of dietary needs, while also maintaining a reasonable margin, its the ideal dish.
Risotto dishes can be made to cater for coeliacs – as rice is naturally gluten-free – for vegetarians and vegans if you remove meat and dairy and other free-from customers at a relatively low cost to the pub.
2) Sales are rising in pubs
Sales of risotto and pasta dishes in pubs at dinnertime rose from 3.2% in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2014 to 3.4% for the same period last year, according to figures from the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s sister brand MCA.
3) Sales are down in the rest of the eating-out sector
While risotto and pasta dishes have seen a slight increase in sales in pubs, others in the foodservice sector have experienced a downturn. For Q4 last year, risotto and pasta dishes dropped to 3.9% of total dishes ordered in the eating-out sector compared with 4.3% for the same quarter in 2014, MCA showed.
4) Big pub chains have risotto on their menus
The likes of Table Table, Browns, Chef & Brewer and Harvester all have a risotto dish of some sort on their menus, with some serving it as a vegetarian or even a lighter option.
5) Consumers want more Italian food
Research carried out by Premier Foods showed 45% of the consumers it asked wanted more Italian or Mediterranean dishes on menus, making risotto a prime dish to tap into this demand.
6) Italian high street food chains making some dishes more popular
Some chefs have pointed out risotto was an unlikely dish to be served in a pub five or 10 years ago, however, the same chefs cite the rise of Italian high street eateries as making consumers more open-minded about ordering different dishes in pubs.
7) Forgotten weapon in the arsenal of meat-free dishes
Most chefs forget about risotto when it comes to creating dishes for vegetarians and vegans, says Farmhouse, Horley, head chef Patrick Hames.
“Chefs don’t always look to risotto when they need a dish that’s vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free,” he said. “But it’s the ideal dish to meet those needs – maybe they’re put off because they think it’s harder to make than it is.”
8) The myth
Risotto being hard to make is just a myth, though, says Riso Gallo’s UK managing director Jason Morrison. The two key things to remember when making a risotto are timing and good ingredients, he pointed out.
9) More top tips
Ernst van Zyl, chef and co-owner of the Kerridge-based pub the Lord Clyde in Cheshire, says keeping the stock hot while cooking a risotto and preparing the ingredients before you start the cooking are important for achieving a high-quality dish.
10) High gross profit
A risotto dish can cost as little as £1 to make without protein and as little as £1.50 to make with protein, according to Morrison.
The risotto report series was sponsored by Italian rice experts Riso Gall0. The series includes a feature report, 10 things you need to know about risotto, a recipe gallery and a video masterclass.