Keeping up with changing consumer tastes is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to menu planning. Here’s some thoughts on what the year ahead holds, as well as some ideas for meeting consumer expectations while maintaining profits.
Plant-based: The biggest trend of 2018 won’t be going away any time soon. Many more consumers who don’t follow full-time vegan or vegetarian diets are still trying to cut back on meat at certain times. Offering an interesting choice of plant-based protein dishes on lunchtime and early week menus in particular can help encourage customers to eat out and still stay meat free. Expect to see a wider choice of premium veggie burgers, sausages etc. from suppliers.
Reduced-meat recipes: Another aspect of the meat-free trend is consumers who are seeking out dishes with less meat, both for health reasons and because of environmental concerns. Smaller amounts of meat can be combined with ingredients such as pasta, rice and quinoa, or with plenty of fresh, seasonal vegetable in hearty soups and pies, to create appealing dishes with less meat. Speak to suppliers about the availability of less popular meat cuts, which offer better value.
Seafood: Fish and seafood is high on the political agenda as part of the Brexit debate, and customers in all camps can be persuaded to enjoy a wider range of species sustainably caught in British waters. Use menu descriptions such as ‘catch of the day’ and specials boards to highlight the best value fish and seafood from suppliers, who can also offer advice on the best way to prepare and cook less familiar species. Offcuts can be used to make high-margin menu favourites such as fish pies and fishcakes.
Regional: The hyper-local food trend seen in some restaurants isn’t likely to filter all the way through to pub menus, but highlighting the provenance of selected dishes can add to the appeal of the menu, particularly in tourist areas. Sourcing the whole menu locally could prove expensive, but spotlighting ingredients such as sausages flavoured with a regional ale or fish poached in cider from a local orchard will add interest for customers without breaking the bank.
Fusion: The street food trend has faded a little from its peak, but one of its legacies is the mash-up; dishes that fuse different flavour and styles together. That can be a simple as an Indian pizza made with chicken tikka and onion bhaji as toppings, or adding a touch of the exotic to the traditional Sunday roast by offering Moroccan spiced lamb or Thai-style roast
pork with all the trimmings.
Build-your-own: Modular food is another gift to the pub menu from the street food movement. Offering customers the opportunity to assemble their own burger, pizza or wrap from a choice of ingredients, including vegetarian options, helps add interest and a touch of theatre to familiar pub dishes. By including premium ingredients as well as good value options, dishes have an appeal to a broad range of customers.
Spice: British consumers’ palates continue to get spicier year-by-year, and there’s no harm in pubs taking a tip from a certain chicken-themed casual dining brand and offering a choice of spice levels from plain through to extra hot on dishes such as grilled meat, fish and vegetables.
Artisan dairy: Dairy products such as butter and cheese have seen sharp price increases over the past year, and this is likely to continue as global demand outstrips production. One way to tackle this to encourage customers to pay a little extra, for example by offering an artisan local cheeseboard as a premium sharing option, or by mixing butter with ingredients
such as chilli or garlic as a trade-up topping option on a steak or fish fillet.
Seasonal: With healthier choices increasingly on-trend with consumers, spotlighting seasonal fruit and veg not only has strong customer appeal, but also allows pubs to make the most of produce when it’s at its best in terms of both value and quality. Use menu descriptions such as ‘served with fresh season vegetables’ to add flexibility.
Waste-free: All sectors of the food industry will come under increased pressure to reduce food waste. One way to tackle this is to offer take-away boxes – recyclable, of course – so customers can take unfinished meals home for later. Highlighting this option on the dessert menu can also help to persuade customers who might be wavering, and so boost sales. Changing menus also need to be carefully costed. To ensure that new dishes are profitable, the Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, enables chefs, caterers and restaurant managers to monitor margins in busy kitchens or when negotiating with suppliers, using a smartphone or tablet. To download the FREE App, go to https://www.lynxpurchasing.co.uk/purchasing-