For any expanding business, having the right support structure in place creates the stability and confidence that are vital for growth. For The Snug group of bars, that support includes its partnership with buying specialists Lynx Purchasing, who help the business manage its menu price in the competitive High Street bar market.
The first Snug Bar opened in central Cambridge in March 2005, followed by sites in Hertford, St Albans, a second Cambridge outlet, High Wycombe and the latest addition, Hitchin, in 2014. The company has ambitious expansion plans, hoping to open a further 15 sites over the next five years.
Snug founder and managing director Giles Fry says, “We started working with Lynx in 2008, after a period of rapid growth in our business. Suddenly, I was having to find the right kind of quality suppliers to provide the food and drink for our new sites and agree the prices with them, as well as continually checking prices of items we were already buying.
“Juggling this with all the other priorities for the business became impossible. We needed a specialist pair of hands to do the legwork for us and take away the hassle.”
Lynx immediately stepped in to deal directly with the many suppliers Snug was already using on the basics for its business. They then set about helping Snug negotiate the best deals on all the new products it needed to deliver the offer across its growing group. This meant going out into the market to find the suppliers with products at the right quality and price points and then agreeing the best deals with them.
“The help Lynx provides is invaluable. It gives us real peace of mind, and it means that, if we do find ourselves adding two new sites within a short space of time, we can have confidence that the food side of the business will be straightforward, which frees us up to deal with everything else involved in opening new bars.”
The core of the Snug is a wide drinks range, with its list of 150 cocktails a major driver of trade, coupled with freshly prepared food and friendly staff. It’s a combination that makes Snug a popular choice at the start of an evening out, as well as for weekday lunches.
The aim at Snug is to over-deliver against customers’ expectations, as Fry explains, “Our food is uncomplicated, classic pub/bar fare – burgers, sandwiches, fish & chips, all day breakfasts and so on. We differentiate ourselves from other operators with similar menus by making ours the best on the High Street, through the quality of the ingredients we use and the presentation of the food on the plate. ”
Affordability is a key part of the appeal to consumers and rising food costs have presented challenges to Snug, as to every other food operator. Fry says, “Food inflation has been an issue for us, but without Lynx’s help, it would have been a major headache.”
“Thanks to their connections with suppliers, Lynx can give us advance warning of any rises in food costs, and they then work with us, either by substituting ingredients or re-engineering dishes to ensure that the quality of the food on the plate is unchanged, and our margins are maintained.”
“It’s a really important job that makes a huge difference to our bottom line, but we simply don’t have the time to do ourselves.”
Like any growing business, Snug regularly reviews its customer offer and has changed its menus recently. Fry explains, “We realised that, in the evenings, most of our customers come in here not for food but for drinks, particularly our cocktails.
“However, if the food looks good and the price is right, they might decide to eat with us, so we’ve looked at ways of making our food more appealing.”
Adding small plates, priced at £3, allows customers to order a cocktail and some food for around the £10 mark, making it an easy impulse purchase.
For daytime customers, Snug offers a competitively priced lunch menu, with a choice of some of the bar’s most popular dishes such as burgers, paninis, chicken salad and Eggs Benedict. Fry says,
“Customers expect you to have an affordable lunchtime menu – I don’t think you could trade on the High Street without one now. We’re proud of ours and it has become a big part of our food business.”
“Building a reputation for quality has also made us more resilient to some of the recent food scares. In fact, we used the horsemeat issue as an opportunity to remind our customers, primarily through social media, that our burgers are freshly-produced in our kitchens, from quality British beef.”
As well as everyday products, Lynx also helps Snug to source one-off items. For instance, when they set about refurbishing the gardens at one of their sites, they wanted to place an order for outside tables, umbrellas and decking to spruce up the area. Snug was offered a choice of garden furniture companies offering prices negotiated by Lynx.
Coming up with new ideas to enhance the Snug offer is likewise part of the free Lynx service. The team has access to a wide range of suppliers from everything from crisps to Christmas decorations, and if they don’t already have a contact, will source new suppliers as needed.
“Working with Lynx Purchasing not only saves me money – though it certainly does that,” adds Fry. “It helps me protect our margin, which is more important than ever in these challenging trading times. It also saves me personally a lot of time and hassle, so I can focus on growing the business and bringing the great Snug experience to even more people.”