Perfecting the Profit Sector

How to keep your offering on trend – and on budget

According to Allegra Strategies, the restaurant market growth rate will double over the next three years, expanding the market by £3.8billion to reach £52billion in 2017. However, competition remains fierce as the big chains edge their way further onto the High Street and it is therefore more important than ever to get your offering – and pricepoints – right.

Good value

Last year, a study by NPD Crest outlined how the fast casual sector is resonating with the consumer in terms of the recession because it’s good value.Business development director, Guy Fielding, says: “It also fits with our transient lifestyle

where people don’t have the time to spareto enjoy a fine dining experience.”

The use of discount vouchers continues with 20%admitting to using a voucher, of which the 18-25 year old category is the highest redemption. 

Interestingly the majority of operators feel vouchers have a positive impact on sales.  ‘Been there before’ is the most prevalent reason why consumers visit pub restaurants therefore it is essential the quality of the food is consistency.

Be streets ahead

Street food continues to influence menus, as diners literally queue up

for ‘simple food delivered well’. American cuisine will continue to grow in 2014

as more US operators open in the UK, and the popularity of South American cuisine is on the rise, particularly Brazilian and Peruvian.

Middle Eastern dishes, such as Katsu curry and ramen noodles, remain on trend and Santa Maria Foodservice has a brilliant selection of street food- inspired recipes under their World-to-Go banner.

Meanwhile Asian cuisine is becoming one of the fastest growing trends within the UK foodservice market, according to Mark Rigby, executive chef at Premier Foods. He says: “Dishes such as Chicken Tikka Masala, Chow Mein and Sweet & Sour Pork are widely known as some of the nation’s favourite dishes. Chefs can use Sharwood’s Indian and Chinese ready to use sauces to create a range

of dishes that consumers will be familiar with.

With a range of accompaniments as well, such as noodles, prawn crackers, naan breads and puppodums, operators could run themed night to increase uptake and boost sales.”

Using frozen products can help increase profit margins and avoid wastage. Recent retail market data from Kantar Worldpanel (52 weeks to 30 March 2014) clearly shows the huge potential value of the Frozen Ethnic Snacks category,

with sales of oriental products up 47% and

Indian products by 57%.

Simon Cliff, general sales manager, Daloon Foods, comments: “Frozen ethnic snacks provide pub caterers and restaurateurs with a number of advantages in the kitchen, including cost effectiveness, portion control, minimal wastage and total flexibility, with a range of products that offer great flavours and consistent

quality.  They are quick and easy to prepare and are ideal for use as hand-held snacks, accompaniments on main meals and themed meals, and are perfect for starters, sharing platters, buffets and event catering menus.”

Share the love

Diners are shunning formal, serious dining, opting instead to eat in a relaxed, fun atmosphere – and sharing dishes are conducive to this, according to research.

A recent independent survey found that 79% of outlets have sharing platters among their starter options, whilst 47% also included them as main courses as well.

Potato-based products, such as Lamb Weston’s potato dippers and wedges, featured as the most popular items with 81% of all platters including

potato products within the selection. Side orders, and what were once thought
of as accompaniments, such as garlic bread, are now being served as part of a ‘shared plate’, driven by operators’ need to increase spend per head and make a point of difference over their competition. In response Pan’Artisan has launched a flower-shaped Tear & Share Garlic Bread in 220g rounds (suitable for four) and 110g rounds (suitable for two) in two flavours -traditional garlic and Cajun spiced.

RH Amar supplies meze products to the foodservice trade and has seen dramatic growth as sharing dishes increase in popularity.  Its brand Cooks&Co offers a range of exciting sharing dishes and ideas which come together in a summertime booklet for the catering trade called “Add a Splash of Colour to your Menu”.

Anne Marie Cannon, product marketing manager for Cooks&Co, says: “As British diners become more knowledgeable and adventurous they are looking for spicier, bolder, more flavoursome offerings from their eating out experiences, and Mediterranean cuisine offers exactly that.”  Italian Nachos, Red Pepper and Chorizo Bruchetta, Mediterranean Tray Bake and Artichoke and Mozzarella Flat Bread, are some of the recipes available on

Chips away!

When it comes to traditional fries many customers are looking for new tastes and discoveries. For operators this gives greater upselling opportunities as you can have a premium fries menu that warrants a price premium or can be included as a point of difference with a burger or other item.One such range growing in popularity are sweet potato fries. Providing numerous benefits to caterers, Sweet Potato Fries, with their straight cut and longer length, offer a greater yield (up to 25%) and increased plate coverage, which means that more servings can be provided per case compared to ordinary potato fries. 

Usually, fries have an average portion size of 8oz, however due to the nature of sweet potatoes the consumer actually eats less, which means the average portion size is 6oz. Their premium quality also gives caterers the opportunity to generate

more profit – Sweet Potato Fries allow for a 20-30% mark-up compared to standard fries.

The Gravy train

Good, old-fashioned gravy is essential for pubs looking to serve a Sunday roast, says Unilever Food Solutions’ pub expert Chris Barber. “Chefs wishing to go one step further could make what I call Grandma Gravy, derived from the French term la cuisine de grand mere, which basically means simple, traditional home-cooking,” he advises. “A good Grandma Gravy can be made by roasting the meat, pouring off the fat, adding red wine and gravy mix, then cooking in a pan with real meat juices from the roast. It’s a method that has become lost over the years but it’s really very simple and tasty. Also, think about adding flavour with herbs like rosemary or garlic. Add whole cloves of garlic and some rosemary to the carcass when roasting the chicken. When cooked, remove the garlic and crush into the gravy, adding the rosemary for an additional aromatic finish.”

For a tasty curry gravy to serve with chips, Chris suggests using KNORR Patak’s Create More.

Child Menu Solutions

With some outlets having recently faced criticism for the lack of originality when it comes to children’s menus, operators are eager to raise their game and impress families.

In order to avoid menu fatigue, operators should refresh the children’s menu regularly and try offering ‘specials’ for children, as well as adults. To keep one step ahead of the competition, it is important for chefs to be up-to-date with current trends across the foodservice industry. Children could receive smaller portions, but will appreciate eating the same as the grown-ups. A fixed price menu option for children will be popular with parents looking for value for money, encouraging repeat custom.


Serving quality hot beverages is very important in keeping customers coming back. 

The UK has become ‘a new nation of coffee drinkers’, as speciality coffee culture features as a critical part of UK lifestyles (Allegra Cafe UK12 report), with one in five people admitting to buying coffee out of home every day. Consumers are more likely to trade down on food than coffee, so getting your offering right

is essential to keep them coming back.

For smaller pubs and restaurants where a coffee machine isn’t practical or profitable, Nescafé Azera is an ideal solution, offering barista-style coffee in an instant.