The British weather is nothing if not unpredictable, but it only takes a glimmer of sunshine to start people thinking about eating and drinking more often in pubs and restaurants making summer a real opportunity for licensees to maximise the extra sale opportunity.
There’s good news this summer for chefs and operators who prefer to build their menus around the timeless food classics than follow the latest food fads. The latest Quarterly Dining Trends Report from online reservation specialist Bookatable suggest that diners are turning their backs on the ‘hipster food’ trend that has driven for the weird and wonderful in terms of ingredients and serving styles:
- Three quarters (74%) of consumers either wouldn’t pick the ‘unusual’ dish from the restaurant menu, or weren’t sure if they would take the risk;
- Almost six in ten (57%) aren’t bothered by new or alternative foods, and feel they cannot keep up with food trends;
- Issues such as food sustainability, local sourcing and food waste are now more important priorities for customers than simply being on-trend. This is particularly true of the up-and-coming generation of consumers, with those aged between 18-24 less likely to choose a restaurant based on whether it serves served ‘hipster’ or alternative food than those aged 35-44.
However, a back-to-basics menu trend can also present challenges. The recently published Pub food report from analyst Mintel shows that a grilled steak is consumer’s favourite pub meal, the top choice for 20%, followed by roast dinners (19%), burgers (15%) and fish and chips (14%).
Three out of the four most popular dishes are all about the meat, and as the recently published Summer 2017 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast set out, meat prices in the UK catering and hospitality sector rose by 5% in the year from June 2016 to June 2017. With beef, as well as high seasonal demand for prime steak cuts such as ribeye, the continued popularity of gourmet burger and steakhouse style menus is driving strong demand for the trimmings used to make burgers and other dishes.
On the face of it, fish looks to be even more of a challenge, with prices up 8% year on year. However, there are also seasonal opportunities for operators who can be flexible about the type of fish they serve in that ever-popular fish & chips.
Summer also sees a greater choice of fish species available, especially those caught in British waters, as there are more opportunities for the day boat fleet to head out to sea. Fish such as lemon sole, pollock, plaice, turbot and whiting are all caught regularly across the summer, and are more sustainable alternatives to cod and haddock.
Catering seafood suppliers can advise on which species are at their best in terms of value, quality and availability, which changes daily according to the catch. Build this flexibility into menus by having a ‘catch of the day’ offer. Operators can also capitalise on the popularity of spicy flavours with dishes such as fish curry and Thai fishcakes, as well as making seafood an ingredient in popular dishes such as risotto and pies.
- Fish also cooks well on the barbecue, wrapped in foil and generously seasoned with herbs and spices. A classic surf-and-turf option, combining steak and seafood, is also a great barbecue option, and enabled operators to charge a more premium price on menus.
- Lighter flavours also rise in popularity during the the summer, with customers. British-grown salad leaves, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers can be combined into a summer salad, with home-grown grown peas and broad beans are ideal as seasonal summer veg to accompany main courses. Operators can also consider offering healthier choices such as cous-cous or spicy rice as an alternative to chips.
- UK grown fruit is ideal as a summer dessert option. A platter of British berries, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries blueberries and gooseberries, can be a tasty, low calorie and appealing dessert option, while English rhubarb will remain in good supply until the end of the summer. Offer crème fraiche or frozen yoghurt as a lighter alternative to cream and ice cream.
- For those who prefer a more savoury finish, a well-assembled cheese board makes an interesting alternative to dessert and with the explosion in artisan cheese-making, there are plenty of possibilities. Local cheeses are always popular, and a specialist cheese supplier will offer advice on creating a cheese board and supply the notes on provenance which can be shared with customers.
However the weather behaves, make sure your profits shine. When planning dishes that combine higher cost ingredients, such as surf-and-turf, keep track of costs and maintain margins using the Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, available FREE for Apple and Android devices. Endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs, the App helps chefs to monitor margins, particularly specials, using their smartphone or tablet in a busy kitchen. You can download from the App Store or Google Play, using the links below:
For Android: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App on Google Play
The Summer 2017 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast can be downloaded FREE at Lynx-Purchasing-Market-Forecast-Summer-2017.pdf .