FEATURE: Why the garden is a great place for cider

By Fiona Griffiths

- Last updated on GMT

Summer of cider: how to make your offer sparkle
Summer of cider: how to make your offer sparkle

Related tags Cider Finance Pubco + head office Thatchers cider

Summer has finally arrived (meteorologically speaking at least), and with 63% of people visiting the pub more frequently during the summer months, that means it’s boom time for your business.

Of course, that’s especially true if you’ve got a garden, and even more so if you’ve invested a bit of time and money on making your outside space a real extension of your inside space.

Providing comfortable seating, shaded areas, pretty planting, patio heaters, a pop-up bar and perhaps a barbecue or pizza oven are all things you can do to make your garden a big draw this summer.

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Fusion font - Range 1 v2 resized Thatchers

Get your range perfect with Thatchers

Cider’s outperforming beer by 2.4% at the bar*​. With the added summer uplift, it’s essential to get your cider range and pricing right to maximise sales.

When it comes to putting cash in the till, it has to be Thatchers​. Thanks to their consistent quality and exciting innovation, they’ve added more volume to cider than any other producer in the last 12 months*. Thatchers Gold is number one in the free trade*​ where there’s complete freedom of choice, outperforming their closest competitor by 3.7m pints in the past 12 months alone.

Premium fruit cider sales soar in summer months, and Thatchers NPD has revolutionized the category in recent years. Thatchers Blood Orange was a huge launch in 2022, and Thatchers Apple & Blackcurrant is looking set to follow with over 3,000 venues already stocking both. Thatchers’ revolutionary Fusion Font can add theatre, range and improved visibility to the bar with three flavours from one keg on one tap.

But it’s apple cider that remains core. One in every five pints of apple cider sold in the UK is a Thatchers Gold**. ​With a great rate of sale and drinkability, it is the cider-drinker’s cider for a reason​. Alcohol-free cider is now a must stock, and with Thatchers Zero the biggest low/no apple cider in the on and off trade, it’s an essential part of any range.

But beyond the quality liquid, what really sets Thatchers apart is their commitment to sustainability; from planting wildflower meadows, to installing 3,500 solar panels or recovering the CO2​ produced during fermentation and turning it into bubbles. Their consumers can relax knowing Thatchers is as good for the environment as it tastes in the glass.

* CGA OPMS P02 2024 – YoY

** CGA OPMS P02 2024

For more information, click here ​to visit the Thatchers website.

And another crucial aspect of successful summer trading is getting your summer drinks offering right, with a range of ice-cold ciders an absolute must.

Barny Butterfield, chief cider maker at Sandford Orchards in Devon, says although die-hard cider fans will drink it all year, “summer is the time that cider shines”.

“The crisp, refreshing, rewarding taste of cider, in the sunshine, in a pub garden buzzing with birds and bees, nothing quite beats it,” adds Butterfield.

One publican who would agree with that sentiment is Nick Blucert, co-owner of the Duke of Greenwich in London.

Blucert, his brother Daniel and business partner Jonathan Kaye have just finished a project to extend the pub garden, install an outdoor kitchen, a covered bar and, especially for this summer’s season of sports, a giant screen.

barny and bag in box
Barny Butterfield and bag-in-box Sandford Orchards

Throughout the summer the food offering in the garden will be a barbecue, complemented by a range of summer drinks including the full line-up from Umbrella Cider.

Nick Blucert says: “Umbrella is very, very small production and, like all of our suppliers, it’s London based. Most of the pubs around here serve the ciders you can find in the supermarket, but we like to offer a more artisan product.

“Umbrella is refreshing, dry, slightly sweet, with a bit of acidity, and it just cuts through the smoky, charred flavour of barbecued food perfectly.”

Top tips in cider

“To maximise value, you should think about your cider pricing structure the same way you do lager and reflect the premium nature of the product. Premium cider brands are often historically underpriced on the bar and could be reviewed to maximise value. As the premiumisation trend continues, people are choosing to have fewer but better, and are willing to pay for quality.”

James Palmer, head of on-trade, Thatchers Cider

“Pairing ciders with food is still an underexplored opportunity when it comes to driving incremental sales and is an effective way of encouraging consumers to purchase a premium cider. Sheppy’s craft ciders pair well with multiple dishes depending on the flavour and dryness. For example, Sheppy’s 200 is our heritage cider that pairs excellently with chicken, and even spicy curries.”

David Sheppy, managing director, Sheppy’s Cider​ 

“Clearly signpost your cider offering to consumers, particularly bottles or cans in your fridge that might not be as visible. You can work with your cider supplier to ensure you have suitable PoS to catch the eye of drinkers and bring the brands on offer to life.

Also, educate front-of-house teams to make recommendations about cider and food pairings or new flavours to elevate the customer experience and drive more sales.”

Stephen Groucott, on-trade category controller at Molson Coors

“Some cider companies are offering three-litre bag-in-box, equivalent to five-and-a-half pints. Pubs can chill them and have them as a take-to-table option, which is an innovative way of giving groups the opportunity to self-serve.”

Barny Butterfield, chief cider-maker, Sandford Orchards

“We know that over half (55%) of weekly drinkers consume both apple and flavoured ciders, therefore pubs that stock a combination of apple and flavoured ciders deliver a higher rate of sale. A mix of apple and flavoured cider products on tap, combined with a good range of packaged flavoured cider varieties in the fridge, is often the best way to drive cider sales, with two thirds of consumers saying that having more flavour options makes them more likely to choose cider.”

Will Rice, on-trade sales director, Heineken UK

Another publican who’s looking forward to reaping the benefits of a newly revamped garden this season is Simon King of the Victoria at Oxshott in Surrey.

The pub’s three-tiered garden now has a dining area on the first level (extending out from the pub restaurant), a free-standing bar on the middle level which is fully covered, and a beer garden on the top level.

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The Victoria, Oxshott

When planning the garden (which has provided an extra 100 covers), King says it was “a must” to offer the pub’s full range of drinks in the outside bar to remove the need for customers to “traipse back and forth to get a drink”.

Another “must” was to offer a choice of ciders, with Cornish Orchards on draught and in bottles, alongside bottles of Silly Moo.

“Just like rosé wine, people tend to drink more cider in the summer when it’s hot, so we wanted to offer a range. Silly Moo is our specialist range, while Cornish Orchards is more familiar, and both fit in with our ethos of showcasing British produce,” explains King.

Installing a separate bar to service customers in the garden should be a priority if space allows, according to Mark Annear, owner of the Cott Inn in Dartington, Devon, which has just won the Pub Garden of the Year award at the Greene King Night of Excellence.

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The Cott Inn has pods in its garden

As well as an outdoor bar, the Cott Inn has a fully fitted garden kitchen with a dedicated team of chefs, a pot wash shed and a coffee shed, making the 160 covers in the garden a slick separate operation to the pub itself.

“Our garden is fully autonomous from the pub which makes it really, really efficient: the staff are not having to run to and fro to take washing up or go and get food or coffees,” says Annear.

Also key to the Cott Inn’s success with its garden is the amount of weatherproof dining it offers: 50 per cent of the garden is covered through the use of marquees that can be open or closed at the sides, plus some pods.

“It means we can still take bookings and not worry about the weather,” adds Annear.

moat house resized
The Moat House

As for cider sales, the Cott Inn sees demand “go up massively” in the summer months, and Annear has a top tip for the perfect cider serve.

“We put the glasses in the freezer which makes the cider even more refreshing. It looks great with the frosted glass - it really works well,” he says.

The idyllic setting - beside a lake with lots of waterfowl - of The Moat House in Acton Trussell, Staffordshire, means it’s always busy during the summer months.

Without an outside bar, serving so many extra customers in the garden on sunny days could be unmanageable, but handheld ordering tablets from the pub’s tech supplier Tevalis make all the difference.

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Sheppy's cider

Moat House beverage manager Rebecca Carroll says: “The TevX tablets are invaluable because they remove all the legwork for staff of going to and from tables and the building to take orders and put them through, and it also enhances the customer experience.

“It’s important for us to offer table service to guests in the garden because it gives them the feeling that they’re valued and being treated exactly the same as if they were inside the pub.”

The Moat House offers cider on draught (Somersby apple and blackcurrant varieties), along with a full range of canned ciders from Kopparberg, throughout the year, but in the summer sales increase dramatically.

“Cider’s lower alcohol content makes it a particularly good session drink to have if you know you’re going to be in the garden for a few hours with your friends, as you know you can have a few and you’re going to be fine,” says Carroll.

With cider clearly being a popular choice for pub goers in the summer months, it’s a good idea to offer a few different options at this time of year and to make them highly visible on the bar to drive sales.

James Palmer, head of on trade at Thatchers Cider, says: “75% of all draught cider sales are apple, with Thatchers Gold being the number one choice for draught apple cider drinkers in the free trade.

“However, having a good range of fruit ciders - such as Thatchers Blood Orange or Apple and Blackcurrant - visible on the bar is a great way to drive summer sales and offer a great option for those looking to experience exciting new flavours.”

Sandford Orchards’ Barny Butterfield suggests swapping out an ale that’s likely to be slow in sales during the summer and putting in an apple or fruit cider instead.

By buying it in bag-in-box format, it’s easy to rotate the cider on the handpull, plus it will gain the “benefit of a little cellar cooling”.

“I encourage bar managers to put a sparkler on for cider because bag-in-box cider is not alive like ale. It keeps for ages, but because it’s not alive there’s not much theatre there in the glass.

“So if you put a sparkler on the handpull you drive some effervescence into the cider, and it looks alive when you’re passing it over the bar and all those aromatics will be coming out,” says Butterfield.

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The Duke of Greenwich

When it comes to choosing what cider to offer in your pub, Butterfield advises steering away from anything that customers could simply buy in the supermarket.

“That’s not good enough in a pub nowadays, customers are committed to an experience when they’re going into a pub and they want really high quality and something special,” says Butterfield.

“That’s why our segment of the cider market - the craft side with a high juice content and really interesting, deep, rich flavours - has been growing and continues to grow strongly.”

What’s more, if you offer a good range of interesting, premium ciders, you won’t just attract more cider drinkers to your pub, but more beer drinkers too, according to Butterfield.

“A cider drinker who identifies as a cider drinker will be a hugely influential person in a group. So if you’ve got two pubs and one has a large selection of cider from classic to modern, the cider drinker is going to go there, and they’ll drag their friends because their friends know they’re going to get a good beer,” explains Butterfield.

“We’re told by the landlords we supply that selling better cider not only means they sell better cider, but also they’re selling more beer because they’re getting longer dwell time of groups, and more groups are selecting their pub.”

Case study

the mutton for case study

The Mutton at Hazeley Heath, Hampshire

When the Taylor family bought their local pub, The Mutton, in late 2022, the building was “a complete wreck”, and the garden, looking out over the beautiful north Hampshire countryside, was an overgrown wilderness.

So the family set about restoring the pub, bringing in a top interior designer to give The Mutton a classic but sophisticated look, which they were determined should continue into the garden.

“We like to think of our garden as an extension of the inside, so it’s not two separate spaces, it has to all marry up together,” says Carole Taylor, who runs The Mutton with son Tom.

So for the exterior design, the Taylors turned to local plant nursery and Chelsea Flower Show supplier Hortus Loci, who came up with a stunning planting scheme that could match up to the interior.

A large terrace was created complete with a garden bar, and an old wisteria tree in the centre of the garden was rescued from collapse by replacing a dilapidated pergola, under which is now a beautiful dining area.

Another addition was two shepherd’s huts - one seating six and the other eight - in keeping with the mutton theme and providing private dining with lovely views across the fields.

Among the drinks that customers can enjoy this summer is Kicking Goat, a small-batch craft cider made in Somerset and Kent, while to accompany drinks in the garden, The Mutton offers Garden Bites (small plates for sharing), alongside the pub’s full menu.

Tom says: “Sometimes a pub garden is just an afterthought - people think we’ll just put some benches down in the grass and that will do - but we wanted the garden to feel like we had taken a lot of care over it in the same way as we have inside.

“The garden bar was an important part of that because it creates atmosphere, and putting in lots of lovely flowering plants makes all the difference between creating a nice place for people to sit, and it just being a seating area outside.”


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