Fabulous Festive Food
At the heart of every Irish pub is the need to socialise, relax, unwind and celebrate. With Christmas ‘just around the corner’ it is time to plan your food and help you to compete with all the alternative food outlets. In this article, Fred Cordonnier, Associate Director with Hospitality Consultants, Conor Kenny & Associates and a 2 Michelin Star trained Chef, guides you to superb and simple ideas to capture the market and the imagination, regardless of your skill, size, market or kitchen.
“But we don’t have a kitchen!”
Even a Pub without a kitchen can innovate. Remember, Christmas is as much about giving as it is receiving. In Ireland there is still a healthy tradition of the landlord buying the customer a drink. The point is not the drink, it is the acknowledgement. So too with food. There is nothing quite as tasty as simple food to accompany a night of pints, fun and craic.
So, if you don’t have a kitchen, race off and meet with your local Fish & Chip Shop. Ask him to create mini bags of chips complete with little strips of battered fish. Give him a time to deliver and make sure he is punctual, clean and cheerful. Not only will your customers appreciate it, they will also see your effort and ingenuity.
“We have a little Kitchen”
Many pubs do have a small kitchen. The first golden rule is to create something within your skill set. Do not try a win awards with fancy food that nobody really likes.
Make sure your Chef or Cook comes up with some freshly cooked Finger Food. Again, a mini Fish & Chips are always very popular. If you want to move a little higher up the quality chain, try Scampi and make sure your Kitchen produces a simple but delicious Dip too. These are inexpensive options that are proven to work.
“We have a good Chef in-house”
Whatever you cook and present must reflect ‘the norm’ in your kitchen. Also, it must be used as a good advert for what you can do. Properly executed you will leave a compelling message for future parties, functions, birthday’s, funerals and so on. So, for the kitchen with a Chef, create a ‘Tasting Platter’ something that can be produced quickly, cost effectively and with real flavour. Once you do this well, it can very easily be a ‘shared dish’ that is added to your menu. Perfect for the pint drinker, the pit stop on the way home, or for those who need to eat without having a full meal, or party people. To be effective it should be a maximum of 2 bites, not too hot to handle, tasty, well seasoned and spicy enough to encourage them to enjoy lots of sparkling water!
“We have a very creative Chef”
Most regulars expect a free Christmas drink. Very few expect ‘free’ food. The whole point is to reward and acknowledge loyalty and make a good statement about your business and proposition. Serving great complimentary food will capture their imagination, custom and loyalty.
For the more dynamic, creative and adventurous Chef, consider small glasses with shrimp and home made mayonnaise. Or, Foie Gras on brioche toast. Equally, if you have a more conservative market, there is nothing as delicious as a piping hot mug of home made thick wintry soup and crusty thick bread. It all depends on your budget, market, skill and sense of adventure.
“We have great food but are just too busy”
If you have a busy pub with very little space on tables and are far too busy to have waiting staff going back and forward to tables, you can create food ”goody” boxes with savoury snacks, a nice selection of quality potato and vegetable crisps, nuts, pretzels and dry fruits. If you really love your customers you can also surprise them with little treats. At Christmas, this could be mince pies or well cut Christmas cake slices or perhaps even a little home made chocolate.
Finally, it is always easy to do the ‘easy’ thing but that will never sustain, let alone develop your business. Today, Pub customers are more demanding and challenging than ever before. They seek innovation, difference, great service and good food. If you do the ‘easy’ thing you will walk your business right into the open arms of your competitors. If you do the difficult thing, your customers will notice and they will repay your investment in them.