Cash in on the great outdoor opportunity

Barbecues and al fresco dining can open new revenue streams for caterers

IF you share Billy Connolly’s view that there is no such thing as bad weather in Scotland, only the wrong clothes, then there’s every chance you’ll be cooking with gas this summer.

Barbecues can be a cost-effective and popular way to pull in customers, old and new.
The weather is often quoted as an inhibiting factor, but by investing in a liquified petroleum gas (LPG)-fuelled commercial barbecue and a reliable set of patio heaters, you can create a warm outdoor dining space.
Using a gas barbecue brings its own benefits, cutting out the waiting time needed for charcoal, meaning operators can switch it on and off in line with demand for food.
“It’s also cleaner, both for the equipment and for the environment,” said Paul Young, of LPG supplier Calor.
The cost of a commercial barbecue can vary a great deal.
“Much depends on what is considered ‘commercial’ and what size is realistically large enough for the demands of al fresco dining at the pub in question,” Paul explained.
“A four-burner stainless steel barbecue can be purchased for around £400.
“For a pub that requires a greater cooking capacity, then a Cinders barbecue could be the answer. Cinders start from around £1250.”
Another consideration is the location of the cooking equipment.
Unlike a conventional kitchen, which is sectioned off, there are safety issues involved in al fresco cooking.
The basic rule of thumb is to keep the barbecue cooking area as close to the kitchen as possible and far from kids play areas.
Barbecues also provide a great opportunity to get creative with menus, according to Olivier Kutz, food service brand manager for Heinz.
“The barbecue occasion is highly relevant for caterers, particularly in the pub sector,” he said.
“A barbecue gives licensees an opportunity to add interest and seasonality to existing menus and advertised correctly can generate greater footfall and create a unique selling point.
“Holding special barbecue events are a great way for pubs to differentiate themselves from high street restaurant chains where this is not possible.” Be best at burgers »

Calor’s website has a host of outdoor food ideas, including this one for a burger with a twist.
• 450g ground beef
• 4 slices Monteray Jack cheese
• 1 tblsp Jack Daniel’s Smooth Original barbecue sauce
• 4 wholegrain burger buns/4 slices red onion/4 leaves curly lettuce/4 slices beef tomato/seasoning
• Mix seasoning and sauce to beef and combine using fingers
(don’t squeeze meat too firmly).
• Divide into four. Form into patties.
• Cook for four mins each side, checking centres are at least 71°C.
• Add cheese to patties. Keep on grill with lid closed for a minute.
• Toast buns on one side then top with onion, tomato & lettuce.

(Top image: Holding barbecues can help operators differentiate their pub from competitors and high street chains.)