The lines between pubs, bars and restaurants have blurred significantly in recent years, with everything from comfort food to haute cuisine available in all kinds of on-trade venues.
And while many more publicans are pursuing the dining out pound, food firms say the vital role bar snacks can play in an outlet’s offer should not be overlooked.
Nigel Phillips, country sales manager, UK and Ireland, for potato snack firm Lamb Weston, said that with a growing number of customers spending more money on dining out there is “increased scope for pubs and bars to attract customers and encourage increased spend with innovative food and drink solutions”.
This doesn’t need to take the shape of a main meal, said Phillips, who recommended publicans can boost margins through an appealing snack range.
“An interesting bar snack menu also attracts those customers who are not looking for a full meal,” said Phillips.
Mohammed Essa, general manager UK & Ireland for snacks firm Aviko, agreed that bar snacks present an opportunity for operators to boost food sales outside of traditional meal times.
“Consumer demand has shifted from traditional sit-down meal times to more casual all-day dining meaning pubs must look at versatile menu options in order to cash in on snacking,” said Essa.
“The ‘bar snack’ has evolved from a humble packet of crisps or peanuts to a whole range of innovative hand-held easy-to-eat dishes.
“The growth of casual dining has also meant that hand-held foods are increasing in popularity – offering this type of dining is versatile and brings variation and value to any menu.”
Essa said that one of the advantages of serving bar snacks “is that they’re relatively low cost to make, take little time and are very profitable”.
“We are already finding that pubs are expanding their snacking menus to boost traffic and profits between traditional dining times, with most planning to add full snacking menus and others looking to discount snacks during off-peak hours to drum up more trade,” he said.
For operators looking to expand their snacks menu, stocking some premium options could be a smart move, suggested Alex Albone, founder of Pipers Crisps.
“Ever-more sophisticated consumer tastes have led licensed outlets to premiumise their food menus, enhance flavours and improve provenance,” said Albone. “This trend has also driven the ‘premiumisation’ of snacks and is the reason behind the huge sales growth in this category.
“The growth is happening right across the UK, in all kinds of pubs: managed, branded or independent.
“The figures send a clear message to licensed operators: premium crisps offer a great opportunity to grow sales and increase margin by meeting the consumer demand for greater menu sophistication and food provenance.”
Ayman Nasreldin of Pepsico, the firm behind crisp brand Walkers, also underlined the importance of premium snacks, and suggested publicans aim for variety when finalising their range.
“It is important to offer a variety of different ranges to consumers, including a core range but also offering a more premium option,” said Nasreldin.
As well as getting the range right, Nasreldin suggested publicans need to ensure the snack offer is visible if they are going to convert stock into sales.
Operators should use a range of point of sale materials to “increase the visibility of bar snacks” including clip strips and counter-top display units.
“Display is absolutely crucial when it comes to increasing bagged snack sales,” said Nasreldin.
“Combining a good display, whether that is clip strips or back of bar menu units, with the right range will help to meet consumer needs and maximise sales.”
It’s not just smart marketing that can help shift snacks; speedy service can also help drive sales.
A spokesperson for microwave pub snack specialist Big Al’s said that pubs and restaurants can meet demand for “simple, filling and tasty snacks” by stocking “convenient food options which can be prepared quickly and adapted to suit multiple occasions throughout the day”.