Chef Q&A: pub menu ideas & food trends

Pub menu trends

We’re constantly on the lookout to understand the latest consumer habits and what this means for the future of pubs menus. With keeping ahead of consumer trends being top of mind for pub operators, we asked experts in the pubs industry what they see as the biggest opportunities going forward.

Craig’s advice for pub operators

Craig Miles, Development Chef at Bidfood

Whose extensive experience in food development both internationally and in the UK, includes with Levi Roots. He supports pub customers with menu concept and dish ideas.

1. Save time but keep some skill

“Look to use products that use chef skills and keep them motivated, but help reduce time and deliver consistency, such as using a frozen risotto base that a chef can cook other elements into and elevate.

2. Cocktail inspired desserts

Have fun with desserts, such as tapas-style desserts or nostalgic puds. Cocktails are still massive and I think there is a big opportunity for cocktail inspired dessert, such as breaking down the individual ingredients of a pina colada for the dessert.

3. Kitchen space optimization

Look at virtual delivery brands or renting out kitchen space at sites to delivery operators.

4. Healthier options

Following the introduction of calories on menus, mid-week in particular there is an opportunity for lower-calorie dishes, such as breaded and grilled rather than battered dishes, tasty main course salads and smaller desserts.

5. World flavours

These are still key to bring into menus. Pubs also need to ensure their curries etc. are impressive, as more Indian restaurants have now improved their bar offering which provides more competition to pubs. Find out more about the latest international food trends on our food and drink trends page.

6. Cook up an experience

Lots of people want to go to pub and have something they wouldn’t get at home. People will come back if they have had a quality experience. Give dishes a twist, elevate dishes and make them memorable with great presentation.

Neil’s top tips to improve your menu

Neil Bell, Consultant Chef for pub and bar operators

Including for Yorkshire-based pub group, Appetite for Life.

1. Feel the freeze

“If you are struggling with staff, outsourcing isn’t necessarily a dirty word to help support your labour costs. It is worth working with foodservice suppliers to see if there are products that can do the same job of something very labour intensive. There are some excellent quality products on the market, such as frozen bread products, which do the same job and can free up 20 labour hours.

2. Healthy growth

I think there is more growth opportunity around healthier options, such as salads on lunchtime menus.

3. Cost-effective cuts

Moving to less premium cuts can help maintain the ethos of your menu, without breaking the bank for the customer. Look at cuts such as lamb belly and beef shin, which is delicious in dishes such as glazed in soy and treacle with a horseradish mash.

4. International flavours

Pub classics have evolved in the past decade and operators shouldn’t be afraid to spice it up and use flavours and ingredients not seen on every pub menu. For example, why use some Gochujang to give dishes a Korean BBQ twist or use noodles rather than mash potato. Find out more about the latest international food trends on our food and drink trends page.

Lewis’s thoughts on seasonality and preparation

Lewis Allington, Head of Food at St Austell Brewery

St Austell Brewery is a family-owned company which has around 38 managed pubs. Lewis oversees the food offering, as well as 140 tenanted and leased pubs and a historic brewery, whose brands including Korev and Tribute.

1. Winter seafood dishes

Seafood isn’t just for the summer. Our chefs love working with fresh seafood and we have worked on lots of dishes for our Autumn/winter menu, such as a ‘hot shells’ sharer dish with mussels, Cornish king crab, scallops etc.

2. Evaluate which dishes to use or lose skill

Look at where it is worth using skills and where you could deliver a great final dish by deskilling. We are looking at both ends of the scale. For example, we have been doing lots of development work around lamb shanks an got meat in from butcher, but also Bidfood sous vide products which were phenomenal quality. So in my mind, why would you spend all that time on the work around making the dish, when a product can deliver the consistency and will be a great final dish.”

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