With steak and ale going hand in hand, Fuller’s has capitalised on this further with its Ale & Pie Pubs concept.
In a bid to stick to its London roots, the pubco has put the capital’s classic dish of pie and mash close to its heart.
Its Ale & Pie Pubs concept can be found at 16 of its sites, with all but one in and around London, and it’s been a storming success since inception 25 years ago.
In the early 1990s, Fuller’s converted former banks in prominent London locations into its Ale & Pie Pubs.
“There’s some urban legend around why it was banks, but the reality is because they had big basements downstairs with big vaults, which don’t have much ventilation,” says Fuller’s operations manager Simon Gifford.
“It was decided pies would be cooked in the vault because they require very little ventilation compared with, say, frying chips or fish.
“Over the past 25 years, we have ended up getting exceptionally good at making pies.”
Speciality can’t be beat
Now, the pubco bakes more than a quarter of a million pies a year, forming upwards of 30% of its sales, with those behind the Ale & Pie Pubs brand priding themselves on having high-profile businesses in great locations.
And Gifford insists that Fuller’s stands out from the crowd when it comes to the humble pie and a pint.
“You get a lot of pubcos doing a pie and pint, but that is not the same because it isn’t their speciality,” he says.
“They buy those pies in, so it is not the same experience as us.
“Every single pie is freshly cooked in-house and specially crafted in our kitchens with fresh pastry, and the fillings are rotated every six months.
“Each of the pubs will do their own house pie, which is a take on what they want to do in the area they trade in but, obviously, we don’t do a blackbird pie!”
Pie taster board
The pubs offer five staple pies, with the flagship being steak and ale, but they also offer guests a pie taster board where they can sample three delicious pies with three Fuller’s beers.
Gifford says: “Customers get a third of a pint and a mini pie all on a plate. What a meal, a feast some might say!”
“The pies are a very successful part of Fuller’s and we have noticed food sales have massively increased the percentage of turnover.
“Pies now form upwards of 30% of our sales which they certainly didn’t used to.”
“The amount of work that goes into each pie is huge as, every one can take between 20 and 40 minutes to create.”
Showcasing cask ales
However, Gifford is adamant the pie’s ideal partner is a perfect pint.
“It’s not just the pies – the brand also highlights Fuller’s ales, so in the majority of the Ale & Pie Pubs, the cask range available includes many products you can’t get anywhere else,” he says.
“We want it to be a showcase of Fuller’s craft ales.”
So, what lies ahead?
Gifford explains: “The big one for us this year was the Madras pie but we haven’t decided what our spring offering will be just yet.
But he alludes to the possibility of moving beyond the meat-based foundations of the brand and turning towards sweeter toothed guests.
“At this moment in time, we just do savoury pies in our Ale & Pie Pubs, but we could be looking to bring in a few dessert pies.”