But with venues busier than usual – and time, resources and space in the kitchen often at a premium – operators need to be savvy when it comes to sharing platters if they are to reap the rewards.
Mohammed Essa, general manager for the UK and Ireland at potato product supplier Aviko, said sharing platters allow operators greater control over portion size and cost.
The key, he said, is to keep it simple.
“Quality pre-cooked products that are quick and easy to prepare can help publicans profit from a pub full of hungry punters, and keep the tills ringing,” said Essa.
“Chips are perennial favourites and will always prove a popular and profitable option; the ability to add toppings such as melted cheese and sweet chilli sauce add variety and can be priced at a premium but at minimum cost. Variety, however, is the spice of life and publicans will benefit from adding more adventurous – and higher margin – options.”
Mark Lyddy, head of foodservice at Tilda, agreed that sharing platters can be a cost and time-effective way for operators to boost profits, especially over the festive season.
And he said offering a selection of “more exotic” snacks alongside the traditional staples is key if licensees are to maximise sales.
“It pays to be different and to offer customers a varied choice – particularly at this time of year when there is so much competition trying to attract festive business,” he said.
“Snacks and sharing platters can help outlets generate incremental sales without too much additional time and effort in the kitchen.
“Sharing platters also tap into the sociability of the pub occasion, particularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas when groups of friends or family members gather together to celebrate. These sort of occasions normally involve a few drinks and some food – so sharing platters are always a staple at this time of year.”
The profit opportunity of sharing platters was underlined by John Pinder, managing director of buying group Lynx Purchasing, who said buffet-style food can bring some “real advantages” for pub and bar operators.
“Sharing platters also offer menu flexibility since they are ideal as bar snacks as well as part of a more formal restaurant-style menu, while the individual products can also be used in starters and buffets as required,” he said.
“Understandably, in the run-up to the festive season there’s a great deal of focus on sit-down meals and group bookings. It’s important to bear in mind that there are also many informal visits to the pub at this time of year, from after-work drinks to friends meeting up.
“Platters can be easily prepared and served, allowing operators to ensure that customers can enjoy food along with a drink in a casual setting, without affecting restaurant service.”
Nigel Parkes, purchasing and marketing director at Atlantic Foods, agreed, saying the importance of sharing platters “should not be underestimated”.
“Demand for products like chicken wings, goujons and strips remains strong and there is an increasing emphasis on hotter, spicier products,” he said.
However it isn’t just the food on the platter that operators should consider – the choice of tableware is also important.
“Overall there has been a strong trend for the use of natural materials in sharing platter presentation, including bamboo and slate with porcelain pieces,” said Kathy Birch, marketing manager of tableware supplier Artis.
“Although white porcelain remains the firm favourite with chefs, Artis has noticed a shift towards subtly coloured matt glazes, with a more handcrafted, rustic feel.”