2019 Menu Development Initiatives: Star Pubs & Bars

2019 Menu Development Initiatives: Star Pubs & Bars

Star Pubs & Bars

Mark Teed, head of food

Number of sites:
2,900 pubs of which 108 pubs are on Just Add Talent agreements (a managed operator agreement)

Major trends this year and implementation:
‘Better me’ and a high consciousness for our own health and the environment has been fast moving in 2018. Vegan has become a dirty word in some circles with ‘plant-based’ the new go-to word. From a healthy salad to a loaded dirty vegan burger and cauliflower ‘wings’, we can enjoy the food we crave more mindfully for ourselves and for the planet. Jackfruit has become mainstream and bleeding vegan burgers sit comfortably on menus with seitan and aquafaba. We developed a free-from menu to give our lessees an off-the-shelf solution which contained vegan, dairy- and gluten-free dishes across starters, mains and desserts. This menu came with all the purchasing codes from our nominated supplier Brakes, as well as, and more importantly, an allergen sheet containing all of the allergens that these dishes contained.
Another hugely widespread trend has been convenience – operators are going cashless to increase speed of service; pubs have launched apps allowing customers to place orders from their tables; and restaurants have developed technology allowing customers to pay and leave without interacting with staff. ‘Dark kitchens’ are increasing, enabling restaurants/bars to use their kitchens for different concepts and brand names with menus exclusively for home delivery. We still want good quality food and all the things we are used to, but to fit into our busy lives. Food companies are developing packaging that allows their products to be ‘deliverable’ and not ruin the dining experience just because you are eating it in your home instead of a restaurant or pub.
Finally, another big trend has been the change in mealtimes. Consumers have been gradually drifting away from eating three square meals a day to whenever they want. It is an extension of convenience. Why shouldn’t we be able to eat breakfast at 12pm if this is what fits our schedule? Fourth meals are also very much a new idea where we have been experimenting with when and how often we eat. The fourth meal could be grazing on snacks throughout the morning or eating porridge in the afternoon before a gym session. In Mexico and Columbia, Kellogg’s have repackaged a selection of their cereals as a light evening meal option, rather than for breakfast.

Menu planning:
To plan for the year ahead operators need to look at current trends and what is likely to take off more in 2019, such as healthy and vegan or plant-based dishes, as well as convenience and speed of service. They should also ensure that they have something for all budgets, including dishes that might stretch everyday budgets for diners wanting to treat themselves. Test kitchens are a great idea – they give the operator a test bed to see if dishes can be delivered operationally and the customer the feeling that they are a part of development work and a feeling of ownership. It’s quite low risk and gives the operator the opportunity to be a little edgier and push the boundaries in a single site and let the customer decide rather than risk putting it into multiple sites and seeing it flop. Little tasters or snippets on social media platforms like Instagram can also fuel development: ‘Thinking about putting this on our next menu, what do you think?’
If you have a website, publish food allergens online which gives the customer the opportunity to make choices in advance. This will not work for everyone and if you update your menu frequently will be hard to manage. Tablets that customers can access or be handed upon request may help.
- A customer over 30 only tends to look at five menu descriptors; make these five count
- Attractive images can increase sales by up to 30%
- The number of dishes on a menu should be limited; seven x dishes or sections of seven
- Colours on menus can help influence consumer choice. Green signals fresh, orange stimulates the appetite and red is attention-grabbing and can also signal value.

Growth occasion(s):
Breakfast and brunch are set to continue to grow as will afternoon tea. However, it is the popularity of the so-called ‘fourth meal’ that will become evident, whether it is having porridge before the gym, graze bites – which can be at any time of day – or brinner (breakfast dinner). These are often eaten on-the-go rather than as sit-down occasions.

Next year’s trends:
Concern for the environment will become more prevalent in the food industry impacting on packaging, food waste and reusable materials. We are already seeing chefs using ‘food waste’ to create delicious meals and, of course, the uprising around banning single-use plastic. Sustainable food will become more prominent, with restaurants such as The Vegetarian Butcher growing in popularity and providing dishes such as vegetarian charcuterie. 2019 will see a rise in the use of fermented foods and drinks. We are seeing more of kombucha and digestive health is the top reason for consumption of fermented foods and drinks. Kitchens themselves may also begin to look at how to operate more sustainably; the concept of ‘green kitchens’ has been emerging – what this entails exactly isn’t completely certain, but the outcome is certain to be more sustainable methods, less energy consumption, and creativity in the kitchen leading to less waste.

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