Conjure an image of an exquisite meal that has been produced by a team of expert chefs using fine-quality products. Now picture where the ingredients to make the meal have been sourced. The cash and carry, right?
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It’s notoriously difficult for food-driven pubs to maintain a high level of consistency with their food offer by using 100% locally sourced products. While the cash and carry may have had a bad reputation 20 years ago, it’s one that has dramatically shifted in recent years as customers’ demand better quality products.
This is a lesson the husband and wife team at the King’s Head in Napton, Warwickshire, have learned in their long food career over the years and aren’t afraid to admit.
Andrew and Joulz Judd have ran food businesses in various forms for more than 11 years and took on the King’s Head after outgrowing their first pub located just down the road. The pair took over the tenancy of the Hook Norton Brewery-owned site four years ago and have transformed the former “down on its luck” wet-led site into a locally renowned eatery.
“The King’s Head had a pretty decent wet trade when we came here, but that wasn’t the right route for us,” Andrew Judd muses in the main dining room of the pub, which is purposefully laid out to give diners about 4ft between each table. “We did this place up and introduced a food offer,” he continues.
“We had to establish diner confidence because the food served here before we arrived was quite poor.” After some “aggressive” marketing, though, the pub’s food offer took off and gained a healthy customer following, which is continuing to grow far and wide through word of mouth, Judd adds.
This is where wholesaler Booker steps in, who Judd likens to a local supplier on the basis of the relationships he has with the team at his local Warwick branch. “We’re treated very much like individuals, we get calls about new products that have come in and we also make suggestions to them about what we would like to see, such as when we asked for brioche buns,” explains Judd.
Booker’s brioche bun has helped Judd and his chefs “perfect” the King’s Head’s gourmet burger offer, which features compositions such as the great British beef; lamb, mint & coriander; free-range pork & chorizo; and char-grilled Cajun chicken breast; which are all served in a gourmet burger bun and with the special house sauce. Diners are then given a choice of two toppings, including Shropshire Blue cheese or smoked back bacon, which are both from Booker’s Chef’s Larder range.
Sales of burgers increase
Sales of burgers increased by 30% after introducing the brioche bun and GP rose by 95p per dish.
“We’re quite local to the branch and have personal relationships with the team there,” Judd continues. “I like talking with Booker’s local butcher and fishmonger.
“We get calls about nice dishes that they think we would like, because we’re always trying to step away from run-of-the-mill products. A few weeks ago, for example, we got a call about some grouse.”
It’s not just about the service or the quality of the ingredients, but also about Judd’s need to maintain the content listed on the pub’s menu for up to six weeks. “Sourcing from Booker means we know how much a product is going to cost from day one of the menu to day 40 because of Booker’s Lockdown campaign, meaning we have better control of our margins.
“The biggest things for us are the consistency of the products, the provenance, the prices and to have that maintained for weeks on end is fantastic for me. Customers expect consistency in all of these areas and we have to deliver it.”
Along with Judd’s points about consistency, customers are also searching for more of a premium experience and something to remember when parting with their cash.
“Premium is where it’s at for the customer at the moment and it’s up to suppliers to deliver on this trend for their clients. Local artisan products are very big in customers’ minds and this is going to become a bigger trend (see The proliferation of ‘premium’, p47-50).
“This trend can be translated into almost any dish, but if you take our cheese board, we have cheeses like Shropshire Blue and Taw Valley Mature Cheddar (all from Chef’s Larder) so we know the exact creamery it comes from.”
Desserts can also benefit from a little burst of premiumisation, he adds: “A lot of our desserts come with ice cream, so we went to Booker and said we wanted a better ice cream, the one we were using at the time was OK, but we wanted better and now we get Chef’s Larder Premium Ice Cream and it compares with the likes of Mövenpick but costs less. We can make more than £4 GP for three scoops.”
Points of delivery
Those points of delivery in terms of service and also the rising premium needs have been translated into Judd’s events food business, Taste Events, which is growing on the back of the successful food offer at the King’s Head, he adds.
Including the food sold in the pub and through his Taste Events catering business, more than 90% of Judd’s food offer comes from Booker, he reveals.
Taste Events is an arm of the business that allows Judd and his wife to ensure a very healthy revenue from food. The food comes from the same source as the pub.
As a result of the events business, the kitchen at the pub could see as many as 12 chefs in there at any one time, either making food for pub customers or for the events.
“The outside catering business is good, you will struggle to make money if you don’t get something else going in the business, like we have with the events catering company,” Judd adds.
It’s not just events either, Judd recently struck a deal with a neighbouring pub, allowing him to serve pizza from a van outside on Mondays. “[Local pub] the Butcher’s Arms doesn’t sell food on a Monday night, like most pubs around here,” he explains.
“We went to them with this proposition and ended up increasing the number of customers there from the usual 20 to over 120, just by selling pizza.”
So, getting back to that exquisite meal we started out with. Judd admits to not having much time for cash-and-carry stores previously but with the help of Booker, he has built a thriving business by sourcing through the model he would have shunned just a decade ago.
This is a piece of sponsored content paid for by wholesaler Booker and is the first part in a series of features.