Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Snacks in Pubs


As someone who likes pubs, I'm always interested in the dynamics of the business that lies behind the public face. The back end if you like and particularly the thought processes of the "offer" - what you do to attract customers.  Pubs have changed a lot since I started drinking in them. Then a pub, put simply, was in the main for drinking in, with the added welcome extra of a degree of social interaction and perhaps some entertainment in the form of darts or some board games. It was a simple place, with those with televisions being regarded as rather sophisticated - but then again I lived in the West of Scotland.  Food when offered, was basic stuff - pies, sandwiches and the like and was seen as an inducement to make you stay, or to attract you at lunchtime, back in the days when lunchtimes at the office were more often than not spent having a quick couple of pints and a sandwich or filled roll. What they were not, for better or worse, was the pseudo restaurants which many pubs today have become.

I've mentioned this before here a few times and was reminded of it again, as I am sometimes, on my recent trip to the area around Ironbridge and Shrewsbury.  Pubs still seem like pubs used to be in this neck of the wood and in the adjoining areas of the West Midlands and the Black Country.  By that I mean that more of the old fashioned type have survived and seem to thrive, though of course the pub/restaurant is very evident too.  What's the point of all this?  Well it is of course the pub snack.  Filled rolled rolls, pork pies, scotch eggs the size of a baby's head abounded.  Us veteran topers could munch on a well made cheese and onion cob while getting on with the serious business of boozing.  We even saw the good old "pie warmer" a few times.

Now I'm not saying that we should flip back to the era of Life on Mars, but this mixed economy seems to work.  It was good to be able to get a simple but filling sandwich that didn't cost £5.95, come with chunky chips and was so big that it put you off your beer.  It was good to graze in one pub with a scotch egg then have something else later on in another.  It may not suit everyone, but surely simple cheap snacks for those pubs that concenrate as much on beer as food would be a good thing to offer customers?

Times is hard, but wouldn't having a look at snack menus as a low cost way of trying to attract a few more customers and keep them once you've got them, be a worthwhile exercise for many pubs?

I very much welcome the return of the scotch egg in some pubs. London leads in this. Well done. It is the perfect pub snack.  This fine example, with black pudding came from the Golden Ball in Ironbridge and cost £1.50

27 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

Agreed - bring back the old-fashioned plain ham or cheese sandwich made from two rounds of Mother's Pride sliced into four triangles :-)

Cooking Lager said...

Snacks? We're talking tapas aren't we? Turning pubs into tapas bistros.

Tandleman said...

No. We're talking snacks, British snacks, not deep fried garlic squid at a fiver a tentacle upwards .

Unknown said...

We used to sell pickled eggs and crisps, scotch eggs, and home made rolls at the Cat in Ipswich. A regular brought them in each morning, and took the profits the following morning.
We didn't make any money on them, the guy providing them did. But what we did have was people staying for a second or third pint because they'd had something a bit more substantial than a packet of peanuts.

Martyn Cornell said...

You can stuff the Mother's Pride into any holes around the window, where it will act as an excellent sealant, but the cheese cob made with a bap from the local baker, cheddar and raw onion is hugely under-rated.

Jennifer Nicholls said...

A good quality scotch egg, or pork pie is great, maybe a nice bit of cheddar or chunky ham in a roll. Nothing huge. My local pretty much does this exact thing, with a selection of crips, nuts and scratchings.

Curmudgeon said...

I never get this "chips with sandwiches" business. Surely in general if you just want something light like a sandwich you don't want a pile of chips with it.

Rather than offering it as a default option, wouldn't pubs be better saying "add chips to your butty for an extra 50p"?

Dave U said...

very varied approach around here, within a few hundred yards and in otherwise similar pubs in the infamous Valley of Beer...

The Shakespeare offers filled rolls for 60p, and decent pork pies for the same...

At the Cask & Welly a bloke brings in homemade pasties, sausage rolls and jamaican patties to sell

whereas other pubs sell similar sarnies to the Shakespeare (slightly larger but not pro rata!) for about £2.50...

ShadowHider said...

You'll have needed a scotch egg (Manchester Egg or Black Watch if it was with black pudding) and a couple of pints if you walked up from the gorge. It's a hell of a steep walk. Hope you tried the Horse & Jockey next door whist you were up there.

Cooking Lager said...

I think fewer people simply see drinking as a hobby. If you do, nice snacks to sustain you whilst you drink might be nice.

If you've little interest in it, beyond weekends why go to a pub on a cold rainy tuesday night? A cheap steak and chips and free pint on the Spoons steak club is easier than cooking but with work tomorrow you're not out on the piss.

Hence pubs change to meet the needs of the current generation. I think you need to promote boozing, Tand, as a respectable and noble hobby worthwhile doing in and of itself. Not sure how's you'd go about it, mind.

Stono said...

The (Fat) Cat Ipswich still does sell scotch eggs as far as I'm aware as does its Colchester/Norwich brethren,they are famous locally as much a part of the fixture & fittings as the eponymous cat & kelham island pale rider.Lunch selection has expanded of late with rolls & bowls of chilli which is new for a pub that doesn't as a rule do food (plates & cutlery are provided for takeaways which are more popular than the snacks) but as long as I can get brewers gold, scampi fries occasional scotch egg or takeaway Ill be happy

Tandleman said...

Cookie - I'm not suggesting for a moment that it is a panacea, but where the trade justifies it, do something simple, rather than something complicated and expensive. Pubs do need to change and offer different things, but some of the old ideas still have merit.

Tandleman said...

PS: It is a rspectable hobby of itself. Perhaps more respectable than guzzling lout in front of the X Factor.

Maxwell Power said...

The humble scotch egg. If I found a local pub selling them for £1.50 I'd bite their hand off. Unfortunately some of London's better (craft) boozers are pricing their eggs like their beer. For £3.50 upwards I may as well get another pint.

On another note, maybe your 1000th post should be about the evils of Saturday night telly!

Cooking Lager said...

Not an X factor bod really. Strictly on the other hand, I confess to loving more than lout.

Maybe you could run tutorials for youngsters unappreciative of boozing. A trip round grotty pubs, getting pissed on the pong whilst eating scotch eggs. I'd sign up so long as it didn't conflict with Strictly.

Erlangernick said...

If the dining room's larger than the other areas of the pub, oughtn't it better be called a restaurant with beer than a pub? I'm thinking of the York and it's siblings in Sheffield.

I regret not having had more than one (1) pork pie during our last trip over.

Idiot question: Are Scotch eggs cold or hot? Only had them in the US, where they're heated up.

Erlangernick said...

Its siblings, that is.

dave u said...

"Are Scotch eggs cold or hot?"

either! more often cold, especially when served as a snack rather than part of a meal...

but then the Rutland does an excellent hot scotch egg, with the yolk still runny

Coxy said...

I like the idea of booking a table , arriving a little late while said table has been empty for ages with annoyed punters standing around it who are slagging of the pub for having booking system, and then just ordering a Pork Pie and some scratchings. The order for drinks will be half a bitter and three lime and sodas.

Phil said...

I like pies and scotch eggs, but I'm not at all sure about the gourmet-grade !!PIES!! and *S*C*O*T*C*H* *E*G*G*S* some pubs have started putting on recently, generally with gourmet-grade prices. And what in heaven's name is a "Manchester egg"? I've lived here 30 years and my wife's from Preston, and neither of us had ever heard of them until about a year ago.

I do agree with the basic point of the OP, though. Some evenings I could murder a pork pie with my pint.

Nick Boley said...

After a great deal of sampling, the missus and I reckon the scotch eggs in the Fat Cat in Ipswich are top of the tree. Ideal pre-match fodder with 3 pints of the finest ale.

Matt Curtis said...

My favourite example of a pub with a good snack range is The Southampton Arms is North London. They have a great range of award winning pork pies and scotch eggs plus they usually have a side of pork roasting all day so they can serve pork baps to those of us with a bit more of an appetite, the apple sauce and the side of crackling is a nice touch too.

They're not what you would call 'cheap' but the quality is high and the portions are generous so I think they're excellent value for money.

Tandleman said...

Matt - I've enjoyed a slice of very excellent pie there too. Can't remember what it cost though. It is the kind of thing I'm thinking about though. Cost is always a problem in London.

Tandleman said...

Phil and Others: The problem is that people can rarely take a simple idea and do it well. They have to upgrade it and change it beyond simple.

Dave Bailey said...

The problem with snacks, other than the simple packaged stuff like crisps and pork scratchings, is that there is an ever increasing burden placed on the establishment in the form of HACCP requirements and the like. This, of course, is to prevent serious illness or even death from pathogenic micro-organism contamination. Scotch eggs, whist quite delicious, would be quite prone to this problem. They are mainly protein you see, a high risk food.

Some operators are quite clever at doing what Tandy suggests and can convince the local authority that they are quite safe dealing with such stuff and their fridges are at the right temperature for the scotch eggs and they don't need a whole kitchen refit just to do a few nice cheese and onion cobs.

Some local authorities do have the effect of putting licensees off the idea of food altogether. Either that, as I suspect in many cases, most need to employ some sort of "chef" or similar causing the whole food operation to become much more complicated pushing the simple snack out of the place.

It's a tricky one to get just right, but I'd agree, there are times when a simple snack is just right.

Tandleman said...

Dave - Very valid points, though overcomeable in the main it seems.

Baron Orm said...

I completely agree regarding snacks, I'm not a big fan of crisps and don't like nuts but a pork pie or scotch egg would tempt me every time I go to the pub.

It can't be that hard to stock a few of these items without having a large amount going stale.

If I ran a bar, bar snacks would be a big part of it, and like you said, I wouldn't be charging anything over £2 per plate.