Is there room for breakfast in pubs?

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

On the up: average consumer spend for breakfast has risen by a third
On the up: average consumer spend for breakfast has risen by a third

Related tags: Breakfast, Lunch

With consumer spend for breakfast down, pubs needs to up their game when serving the first meal of the day to ensure profits rise.

Breakfast stands as the most important meal of the day in many households, but getting customers to leave their homes and eat out has recently proved a little tricky. That said, the category still offers publicans a wealth of opportunities.

The number of consumers choosing to eat breakfast out-of-home on a daily basis has fallen by 11% since 2015, according to purchasing company Beacon, although, despite dining out less, the average consumer spend has risen by a third from £7.31 to £10.09.

However, not everyone agrees with these stats. NPD Group, for example, points to a big rise in breakfast sales in pubs – up 21% in the past year.

Whatever the facts of the matter, pub groups are now giving as much attention to their morning offer as they do lunch and dinner, with the likes of Red Mist Leisure launching breakfast offers,​ such as at its newly re-opened 500-year-old Red Lion, in Odiham, Hampshire.

Demand is there

Company founder Mark Robson says the business doesn’t normally offer breakfasts but, as the Red Lion is situated in a prime, high street location, there is more demand for coffees and breakfasts.

He adds: “The Red Lion is slightly different. It is not only on a high street, but it also has letting bedrooms. If we have staff in cooking breakfast for the letting rooms then why wouldn’t we do it?”

Another pubco getting in on the breakfast action is Fuller’s, which announced that its 16 Ale & Pie pubs would be serving a freshly prepared breakfast offer last year.

Fuller’s top tips for a great breakfast offer:

■ Understand your customers
■ Provide a healthy option
■ Ensure it is good value for money
■ Nail that delivery time from kitchen to table

Director of food at the pub group Paul Dickinson explains how adapting the offer can pay dividends for a pub.

He says: “For the past four years, we have worked with a butcher so the key thing we do is ensuring we go back to the basics. We use our own black pudding, get all our own sausages made and we have got our own bacon.

“It’s all about the ingredients and defining what the customers wants. When you look at lifestyle and choice, value for money is a key focus.”

Target entire market

Dickinson highlights how ensuring the breakfast menu includes the staple options consumers have come to expect can make the difference between success and failure. “Each of our sites has the basics so, even with a full English, we have a vegetarian sausage we make as well,” he advises.

These objectives seem easy if the pub already has the clientele within its four walls – if a pub has accommodation where guests can stay overnight and enjoy a hearty breakfast in the morning. But what about pulling punters in off the street in the morning?

“A lot of our pubs have meeting rooms so when you get the corporates in or people in for a general meeting, it is part of your on-sales and how you market your offer,” Dickinson says.
“When people come and have lunch, do you give them a business card shape thing and tell them what you do.

“Do people understand what your offer is? It comes down to the basic principles of marketing – if you don’t tell them, they’re not going to know.”

But, this isn’t the only way to get those diners in for an early morning meal. Dickinson advises how to keep them coming back: “Lots of our businesses are really busy for breakfast and at the weekend they do later lunches so people are coming into our business for Sunday lunch later in the afternoon [after coming in for breakfast] because they start the day later, to enjoy it and relax.

“Everything is about experience nowadays.”

Brunch on the rise

A spokesperson from Young’s echoes Dickinson’s advice, saying its pubs are also used for meetings. The pub group has also seen a rise in the popularity of its brunch offering, which it has extended to provide more choice.

But with a fall in consumer spend at breakfast as a whole of £56m in the past two years, how can pubs turn this around and put breakfast top of the list?

After being open just four years, brunch specialists the New Club on Brighton’s seafront has customers queuing out the door over the weekends.

Owner of the East Sussex restaurant Cathie Smith reveals the secrets to her success: “Our whole ethos is about fresh, high-quality, local ingredients, ensuring they are seasonal if we can and we make everything from scratch, on-site.”

Hangover cure

A boozy brunch also seems to be a continuing trend in the sector and the New Club is no newcomer to this.

Smith adds: “Thanks to our location on the seafront and Brighton being known as a party place, we have got hangover cures on our breakfast menu.

“One hangover cure cocktail includes bacon-infused vodka and customers love it. We garnish it with a slice of crispy bacon.

“It is a fun idea and as we are very experience-led, it adds to that experience for our consumers.”

But when it comes to menu options that are slightly alternative to the norm, where does the seaside site get its inspiration from?

“We go to America at least once a year because the US is the place to go as it is so progressive with food,” Smith says.

“Especially New York where no one has a kitchen, or if they do, it is very small so everyone goes out to eat.

“Our concept is based on American comfort food, but high-end. The times of the 1950s diner have moved on. Though there is still that all-day casual-dining culture, it has to be five-star food that makes it experimental and exciting.”

From hot food to cold, and from one city to the capital, the world’s first international cereal café, Cereal Killer sells more than 100 different types of cereals from around the globe with the added bonus of 30 varieties of milk and 20 different toppings.

After opening the doors to its flagship site in Brick Lane, east London, in 2014, identical twin brothers Alan and Gary Keery from Belfast have seen their business go from strength-to-strength, expanding its portfolio to Camden, north London, and to Birmingham’s huge shopping centre, the Bullring.

It was reported that customers visit the cafés in their droves with around 200 to 500 going to the sites per day.

So whether it’s breakfast at dawn or brunch at midday, ensuring consumers feel included in your offer – and keeping your ingredients fresh – could mean the difference between an early morning high or a lunchtime slump.

Related topics: News, Food

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