Top tips to make your business shine

According to the Eating Out in the UK 2015 report, one in eight people expect to eat out more over the next year, with younger consumers eating out more often than older diners. The under 45s eat out more often than older age groups at all day-parts and women tend to be the main decision-makers when choosing a venue – so how should you be marketing your wares to potential customers? Alexis Prince-Donoghue, marketing and creative design assistant at Major International, advises: “Being social media savvy is instrumental for the promotion of any business these days. It can be a great way for smaller independent companies to showcase their offer and shine. From foodie shots of your latest dishes shared on Instagram, tweeting forthcoming events and regular posts to your Facebook page, you can generate new interest in your business whilst appealing to your followers and current customer base all at the same time. “However, you shouldn’t stab in the dark. For a more effective use of this free marketing tool, you need to plan plan plan and carefully word your content.”

Darren Chapman, development chef for Nestlé Professional, shares his tips on how to use passion to get ahead in the business…

Stand out from the crowd Keep customers coming back by making your menu a bit different… Many pubs and restaurants offer the same dishes – but in different guises. Make yours unique! When I was a restaurant chef, customers would come back because the salad was dressed with a homemade fresh dressing. This small touch made a big impact.

Shout about it! If you’re using a gluten-free gravy, or featuring local produce, don’t forget to shout about it. Customers care, so show them you’re doing your bit.

Tweak classic dishes for your specials board Get creative with ingredients. For example, try replacing Cheddar with Gruyere cheese in a burger and you have a new dish for the specials board.

Keep up with trends Experiment with new ideas to keep menus fresh and exciting. If lobster is a huge trend and a customer can walk in and order a lobster burger, it shows that you are right up to speed.

Meaty issues

Cheaper cuts of meat and chicken are becoming more and more popular in both independent restaurants and chains. Beef brisket, beef cheeks, lamb shank, pork belly, chicken wings and chicken thighs are good examples of these. The raw meat is prepared in a manner that produces quality centreplate items with slow cooking and sous-vide becoming increasingly popular. Pulled meats are another prime example of how cheaper cuts are being used across many sectors. Pulled pork, beef and chicken all appear on menus; with BBQ pulled pork generally being the most popular. They add interest, variety and flavour to plainer dishes, are visually appealing and, above all, versatile – they can be used as a topping, filling or garnish.

World cuisine continues to influence British menus with American and Asian flavours holding sway in the form of chilli, spice and smoking. Styles of cuisine that are really in vogue are Korean, Middle Eastern and Peruvian. These styles tend to use simple core ingredients along with specific spices and herb combinations to create amazingly flavoursome and interesting dishes. In meat and poultry dishes these flavours can be introduced during the preparation or cooking of a dish via a marinade, glaze, cook-in sauce or crispy coating. Alternatively, they may come by way of an accompaniment in the form of a sauce, dip or seasoning. With the increased popularity of chilli heat flavours, customisation is perfect in that it allows consumers to select flavour profiles that suit their tastebuds.

Eimear Owens, of Santa Maria Foodservice, says: “Mexican is now an established cuisine on British menus, and there’s no reason pubs can’t start to mix up classic dishes with a Mexican twist. The next phase is all about emphasising quality, authenticity, fresh ingredients and creative spice combinations. Chicken is a popular protein in Mexican dishes and is a great base to build complex, bold flavour combinations. For a sweet and spicy chicken fajita with a kick, marinate thigh pieces in our Mango Jalapeño Glaze, a little Mexican Fajita Spice Mix and lots of our freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper.”

Curry favour with your diners

Curry nights are a great way to attract customers into your pub – and many of the branded suppliers, as well as Country Range, offer a comprehensive selection of ready-to-use curry Indian and Thai curry sauces for the ultimate in convenience. Chris Brown, pub channel trade marketing manager at Unilever Food Solutions, says: “Britain has a long-term love affair with curry – and it’s hotting up, with Indian food appearing on menus 25% more than in 2013. It’s especially big business for pubs, with curry nights a great way to attract diners midweek. “Prawns or beef can increase customer spend, while vegetarian dishes will keep your sourcing costs down. “Customers ‘eat with their eyes’ so also think about adding a fresh garnish like tomatoes or mushrooms to finish the dish off. Clay or metal serving dishes are easy to get hold of and create an authentic experience.”

Child’s play

When devising a menu, while it’s important to offer meals that appeal to adult custom, operators should also remember the value a balanced children’s menu brings. “Children play a particularly influential role when a family is choosing a dining-out destination, and therefore it is vital that operators provide a strong offering to cater for children’s preferences,” advises Nigel Phillips, of Lamb Weston. “In order for a venue to create a memorable and enjoyable visit for the whole family, operators should offer engaging and visually appealing options on its children’s menus. “Offering customers a menu that comprises premium options, traditional meals and inventive, child-friendly sharing dishes will not only encourage people to visit a venue, but it will also inspire their return – amplifying revenue, as a result.”

Let’s do brunch

As outlets look to differentiate themselves from the competition, and the traditional mealtime continues to decline, many pubs and restaurants are offering dishes targeted at the ‘any meal, all day’ opportunity. However this is only a viable option if it’s efficient and financially sustainable, says Jessica Lalor, brand development manager for Kerrymaid. “Key to this menu success is keeping up with the latest consumer trends such as unlimited brunches, which are becoming increasingly flexible and not restricted to traditional brunch times. Unlimited brunches give caterers the opportunity to turn around multiple covers throughout the day and by limiting the dwell time to a strict time period (the standard around two hours), operators can cater for a larger amount of visitors and be more prepared for specific footfall at specific times.”

The more familiar bacon and eggs or ‘All Day Breakfast’ is giving way to more sophisticated dishes influenced by the US brunch occasion. Eggs Benedict, Florentine and other variations are becoming increasingly popular due to being both on-trend as well as offering a ‘better for you’ perception.


+5% Try topping muffins with four or five pieces of tender asparagus and two slices of bacon. Place a poached egg on top of the bacon, then drizzle over Hollandaise sauce.

+10% Smokey red peppers and avocado butter is a great vegetarian alternative. Layer on a couple of slices of perfectly ripe, buttery avocado, and smoked red pepper and drizzle with Hollandaise sauce.

+15% Serve on a biscuit instead of an English muffin with pulled pork taking the place of ham and bacon for a twist on the classic Eggs Benedict recipe.

Premium pudds

At this time of year chefs should be filling menus with all things fruity, says Chris Ormrod, of Ministry of Cake. “A good way to do this is to freshen up dessert offerings with splashes of colour, for example beautifully decorated cheesecakes drizzled with bright red and purple coulis. Proudly bring out apple pies and praise lemon meringue to the hilt. Serve ice cream with everything and banish custard until October.”

He continues: “Restaurants should make sure they feature photographs of the more esoteric creations so that their customers can see exactly what they’re getting.” Why not premiumise your desserts by adding some unique finishing touches? Gill Bullock, of Orchard Valley Foods, explains: “Taking a dessert and adding finishing touches which can be described invitingly on the menu is a way for independent pubs and restaurants increase average spend per diner. For example, a strawberry cheesecake can become Eton Mess Cheesecake with the addition of meringue granules.”

One way independent pubs and restaurants can have the advantage over chains is by creating their own unique desserts or snacks with the research finding that 61% of consumers say they prefer a handmade treat over a mass produced bar or biscuit, says Robert Harrison, sales director, Callebaut. “Not only would consumers be more inclined to purchase, but almost two-thirds of millennials said they would pay a premium for a handmade snack, with 30% willing to pay £1 more.”

Raise a glass

Wine remains the most popular choice of alcoholic drink to accompany a meal but beer and cider are growing in popularity. Craft beer is currently in vogue in the UK and over a third (38%) of Brits purchased a craft alcoholic drink in the three months to November 2015 according to Mintel, so it’s important to swot up on your knowledge of food and beer matching, as well as wine. For example, dark beers, such as stouts or IPAs, work well with pulled pork because the caramelised/roasted flavour of the pork goes hand in hand with the dark malt, and when pairing ribs and beer, the best choices are malt-forward beers that offer sweetness or roast. And let’s not forget that beer and wine are brilliant flavour enhancers for your dishes too. Meanwhile offering a good choice of non-alcoholic drinks is a must, says Emma Hunt, Vimto head of marketing. “Health, wellbeing and the demand for premium alcohol replacement soft drinks are key consumer trends that have impacted on the category over the last year.”

Increasing consumer health concerns have also affected soft drink consumption habits, and suppliers are responding by offering No Added Sugar solutions in their ranges.