2019 Menu Development Initiatives: The Alchemist Bar & Restaurant

2019 Menu Development Initiatives: The Alchemist Bar & Restaurant

The Alchemist Bar & Restaurant

Seamus O’Donnell, executive chef

Number of sites and employees:
14 venues; 834 employees

Major trends this year and implementation:
People are being more conscious in terms of their responsibilities to the environment, which is being reflected in how they eat and drink. As a bar focus, removing plastic straws from the bar top and providing a biodegradable alternative was key. In the restaurant, the rise of the flexitarian and vegan market has been a focus for us. The latest menu change has seen us introduce the Moving Mountains Burger, a completely plant-based, meatless patty that, when perfectly cooked, bleeds just like a real burger but with beetroot juice. Each Moving Mountains burger is packed with 20g of plant protein, offering a delicious, environmentally friendly meat alternative for even the biggest carnivore.

Biggest selling menu item(s) this year:
Our menu caters for all with its eclectic mix of flavours and presentations. The standout items would have to be our Ajinomoto Japanese range of gyozas, vegetables in a spinach pastry, and another best-seller has been our Keralan chickpea curry. We are really proud of these dishes as they support our partnership with Manchester social enterprise, Foodinate – each time a guest buys a meal marked with a Foodinate logo, a hot meal is provided to a person seeking help locally.

Menu planning:
Using sustainable and in season produce is a must to ensure value for money for your guests. This season, our kitchen teams have continued to work tirelessly to refresh our menu. We always want to ensure we provide a memorable drinking and dining experience for guests. We like to add an Alchemist flare where we can, as the presentation of our food is just as important as the alchemy behind our drinks. We listen to feedback from our guests via review platforms and our employees play an important part in the process. The biggest advantage is the ‘buy-in’ – if the staff believe in the finished product, they will recommend it to guests. Using a collaborative approach ensures they are involved in the process and understand the decision-making behind the menu. We train our staff (both FOH & BOH) to understand the allergen procedure, as communication with our guests needs to be as seamless as possible. We provide iPads for customers to make informed decision by reviewing allergens contained in our dishes. As far as Brexit-proofing, we are working alongside our suppliers to source British made/grown as much as is possible.

Technology gives us the platform to try and become a paperless operation. We use Trail for our due diligence and Selima which enables us to communicate with our staff from clocking in and out, payroll, holiday requests, and rotas.

Takeaways and deliveries:
We offer Deliveroo throughout our sites which is growing week by week. It is an opportunity to reach guests who may not have experienced The Alchemist previously.

Growth occasion(s):
The breakfast/brunch trend will continue to grow as it’s such a versatile day-part which can be easily influenced by different cuisines – Dishoom are a great example of this.

Next year’s trends:
Sustainability and health will continue to be a focus and providing meat-free alternatives will be key.

Hear from all of the industry leaders we spoke to for 2019 Menu Development Initiatives in the December issue of Pub & Bar.