Spill the beans: What times of day should pubs serve food?

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

To eat or not to eat? Pubs open up about their food service timings (Credit: Getty/ monkeybusinessimages)
To eat or not to eat? Pubs open up about their food service timings (Credit: Getty/ monkeybusinessimages)

Related tags Food Gastropub Multi-site pub operators Chef

It's important not to put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to food service, but pubs need to be careful not to overwhelm staff or dilute their offering.

Breakfast service can eat into lunch service, but this doesn’t mean some pubs aren’t giving it a good go. Others opt to wait until the evening until breaking out the food menus. We spoke to operators who shared their two cents on the pros and cons of serving food at different times of day.

This comes after a recent poll​ by The Morning Advertiser​ revealed more than half (57%) of pubs served food at lunchtime and evenings only.

Of all 86 respondents, almost a quarter (24%) said they served food all day excluding breakfast, whereas 12% said they offered food at breakfast and at other periods during the day.

The Unruly Pig in Bromeswell, Suffolk serves lunch from midday to 2.30pm from Monday to Friday and is open for dinner reservations from 6pm to 9pm.

On Saturday, mealtimes are extended by a few hours, and on Sunday, reservations are available from midday through to 4pm for lunch and then 6pm to 8pm for dinner.

Neither breakfast nor brunch are offered at the gastropub.​ “We gave brunch a whirl pre-Covid but did not repeat the exercise post-pandemic,” said the owner, Brendan Padfield.

Chefs were not keen to offer brunch as it took away from valuable resources and the time needed to prepare for lunch service, he explained.

While Padfield thought there was a place for a ‘higher end’ brunch offering, he found many customers just wanted a straightforward bacon butty. “You end up competing on price,” said Padfield. “The quality of our ingredients did not win the day with coffee shop competitors.”

Lost custom, frazzled team

Too many guests also wanted brunch post 11.15am, meaning the mealtime leaked into lunch service, which meant the lunch average spend per head dropped.

What's more, the gastropub didn’t used to open on Saturdays until 6pm, but staff then realised families often wanted an early dinner. Similarly, it used to serve straight through from 12pm to 8pm on a Sunday, but this became “too much for a frazzled team”.

On the bright side, the Unruly Pig’s ‘Tasting Thursday’ offer, which slashes the price of the tasting menu by nearly £20, has been a “rip-roaring success” according to the operator. “We are packed – happily,” he added, and Saturday dinner and Sunday lunch also see peak demand.

At the Spread Eagle in Homerton, east London, the focus is on evening trade. It’s London’s first fully vegan pub, and opens at 4pm Monday to Friday, and then midday on a Sunday, with a selection of plant-based roast options available.

The pub’s co-founder Luke McLoughlin said that during Covid, the pub offered lunch service to cater to the residential local customer base who were often working from home.

But as people returned to the office, this became less and less viable. Now, the pub concentrates on dinner service.

'Good ingredients cooked well'

On the other hand, food service kicks off bright and early at gastropub the Duncombe Arms in Ellastone, Derbyshire at 8am.

Breakfast​ is served until 9.30am, but it’s only available guests staying in the pub’s rooms so not to overwhelm the kitchen staff. “People have a good hearty breakfast before going off walking in the Peak District, or going off to Chatsworth or Alton Towers,” said the owner, Laura Greenall.

She added: “It’s really important the breakfast is a really good meal, and it’s served by a smiley person who asks them how their day has been, because it’s the last thing that happens before they leave the place.”

Lunch service takes place from midday to 2.30pm, with the exception of Sundays, where it carries on until 3pm. Evening service then continues from 6pm until 8.30pm.

The gastropub uses local ingredients, including meat sourced from a butcher six miles away, as well as local eggs. “There’s no point making that too fancy,” said Greenall, talking of the breakfast offering. “It’s just good ingredients cooked really well and interesting flavours.”

Related topics News

Related news

Show more


Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more

The MA Lock In Podcast

Join us for a Lock In