In June, Star Bars and Pubs announced a ‘free-from’ menu for its licensees to help cater for increased customer demand. The menu featured 16 dishes and included meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan options for starters, mains and desserts.
Dishes were selected to be in line with the latest food trends and to offer a variety of flavours. The menu includes Mexican, Thai and Italian inspired options with dishes ranging from Loaded Chilli Nachos and Thai Red Vegetable Curry to a gluten free Butternut Squash, Brie, Beetroot and Truffle Infused Oil Tart and Sticky Toffee pudding.
Mark Teed, Star Pubs and Bars head of food, said of the new menu: “Putting together a ‘free-from’ menu is daunting for many licensees. We wanted to take the hard work out of it and offer them an easy-to-implement menu with a broad appeal as well as the reassurance of knowing the ingredients are correct and the dishes properly labelled.
“Free-from food is here to stay. Larger managed hospitality chains have adapted their menus. Independent operators need to do the same or lose out.”
‘Bleeding’ vegan burgers
Marston’s announced in September that it had become the first UK chain to serve the B12 bleeding vegan burger created by Moving Mountains. The meatless burger bleeds like a beef one would when cut, as well as also smelling, sizzling and tasting like beef. The burger is on sale in all 413 of the chain’s pubs. The creation of the burger took British company Moving Mountains three years of development with a team of scientists, chefs and farmers who created over 200 test recipes.
Nicola Arrow, senior food development manager at Marstons, said: “We have listened to our customers and taken the growing demand for healthier and alternative options across the pub sector as a great opportunity to develop and update our menu. The Moving Mountains B12 Burger not only caters to our vegetarian and vegan customers but also to those who are trying to make more conscious health or ethical choices when eating out.”
Promotional ‘free’ pint days
Between July and August 50,000 free pints were given away by over 2,500 pubs as part of National Pub Fortnight. The event required participants to sign up online in order to receive a voucher for a free beverage at participating pubs.
Vouchers did not guarantee a free drink with each pub having 25 free drinks to give away, meaning the offer ran on a first come, first served basis. National Pub Fortnight organisers refused to name the participating pubs until the event began, however it confirmed the majority of London was covered.
The event aimed to celebrate pubs and their place in British communities whilst also driving custom to them. Drinks on offer included pints of Amstel, Kronenbourg and Strongbow, along with bottles of cider.
Nitrogen infused coffee
In early July, Nestle made its Nescafe Azera Nitro available to bars, pubs and restaurants, served from a lightweight tap, which produces a ‘settling effect’ caused by the nitrogen as the coffee drink is poured from into a glass. Served chilled, the drink is also available in a single-serve can variant – in Americano and Latte flavours.
According to hospitality purchasing company, Beacon, 40% of consumers have purchased one in the last 12 months, with 30% saying that an iced blended coffee is their favourite option.
UK and Ireland managing director of Nestle beverages, Neil Stephens, said: “This is a really exciting launch and promises to bring our premium Nescafe Azera brand to the forefront of the hospitality sector. In the year when we are celebrating the 80th birthday of Nescafe, the launch of Nescafe Azera Nitro shows how our business is continually innovating and evolving with the times.”
According to OpenTable, bookings for afternoon tea have increased by 54% over the past two years, and it has been found that 20% of the UK population now expect afternoon tea to be a standard offering on the menu. Whilst the traditional afternoon tea offering of sandwiches, scones and sponge cakes remain popular choices, brands looking to capitalise on this developing market should consider ways to diversify their current afternoon tea offering according to the table booking site.
One area to look at for afternoon teas according to OpenTable, is the vegan market which is currently going from strength to strength, with research suggesting that the number of vegans in the UK has risen by over 360% in the last decade and the trend shows no sign of slowing. Sales of Bidfood’s vegan products have increased by 24% to date this year, suggesting veganism is gaining serious traction and is far from just a fad. Additionally, the company has seen a much broader audience purchasing vegan products, with 6% more customers buying into the vegan range than last year.