By Graeme Murray
The Taste Our Best award – a joint initiative between the Scottish Government and VisitScotland which is designed to drive up quality in the tourism industry – already recognises hotels, restaurants, cafes, takeaways and B&Bs.
Now the scheme has been extended to bars and pubs which offer quality, locally-sourced Scottish produce.
According to VisitScotland, 58% of all visitors and 71% of overseas visitors to Scotland eat in a pub or bar, whilst almost half (49%) of all visitors want to try local food.
By offering local produce, businesses have a real opportunity to boost sales.
The tourism marketing body said this puts the country’s licensed premises in a “perfect position to capitalise on a growing interest in the nation’s natural larder”.
Henricks Bar & Bistro in Edinburgh, which is run by Chris and Ailsa Reid, is one of the bars already involved in the scheme.
Chris said: “They were looking for a bar and bistro which meets the criteria and we already ticked a lot of the boxes.
“The main judging will be by an assessor who will judge you and scrutinise staff, details and ingredients to check they meet the criteria.
“The majority of our customers are relatively discerning. They have come to demand quality of service and if we are not meeting that demand they will go elsewhere.”
It’s not simply seasonal Scottish ingredients which judges will be seeking in participating pubs and bars.
They will also be on the lookout for great service and knowledgeable staff who know the provenance of the produce and can recommend appropriate accompaniments.
Ailsa, who spent six months at the St Hallett Winery in South Australia and now stocks the St Hallet’s Poacher’s Blend in Henricks, said consumer interest in the provenance of food and drink is growing.
“More and more of our customers have been asking about the food; they want to know about the produce,” she said.
“The more local produce there is, the more sales go up.
“The stories and reasons for stocking the produce are really important because we want people to become part of Henricks.”
VisitScotland said visitors are willing to pay up to 15% more for food that is of Scottish or regional origin, and that businesses providing local food can typically enjoy sales of up to 20% higher than outlets that don’t.
“A stop in a pub or bar is a must for many visitors to Scotland, so these establishments can play a crucial role in helping create an appetite for Scotland’s natural produce,” said Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland.
“We know that visitors enjoy authentic, quality Scottish food and drink, with many willing to pay up to 15% more for food that they know is of Scottish origin.
“By sourcing and promoting local produce, businesses have a real opportunity to boost both their finances and their reputation.”
The majority of our customers are discerning; if we don’t deliver they will go elsewhere.
Colin Wilkinson, secretary of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “Figures show that Scotland’s pubs and bars are a major tourist attraction for both domestic and foreign visitors and they have an important role to play in promoting, not only their own unique character and warmth of welcome, but also everything that is ‘Scottish-ness’, from our culture to our natural larder.”