With summer just around the corner, a successful barbecue can mean big business for a pub or restaurant, increasing both footfall and profits, with minimal outlay.
That was the message from catering equipment and food suppliers, who said hosting a barbecue can bring a raft of benefits to a venue.
One of the main boons of a strong barbecue offer is the ability to provide customers with something different on special events like bank holidays, according to Ray Hall of RH Hall.
“Few can resist the smell of a barbecue on a summer afternoon and caterers can offer a simple barbecue menu without a great deal of expense or planning,” said Hall.
Cinders Barbecues took a similar view, saying that once a good system is put in place a regular barbecue event can be a great way to increase footfall.
But when it comes to the equipment itself, choosing the right appliance is key to success.
Simon Frost, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), said that ensuring a barbecue has the signature ‘CE’ safety label is vital, as those without the labelling are illegal.
“While there are plenty of barbecues around, buyers need to be careful that the selected model carries the CE mark,” said Frost.
“A CE mark indicates that a product has met EU safety requirements.”
Hall, of RH Hall, added that while many domestic barbecues “look the part” they will not be able to cope or recover quickly enough during a busy service.
He advised operators to look for equipment that uses commercial-grade stainless steel and to ensure the barbecue they go for has good portability.
Cinders Barbecues, meanwhile, reckons it makes sense to try before you buy. “Start easy and hire a barbecue before you buy,” said managing director Bill Cooke.
“That way, you know what size of barbecue you will need and you get a feel for what age range it attracts, which staff pitch in and which shy away, what system and what food works for you.”
According to Cinders, a well-planned barbecue event is pivotal to its success in providing operators with extra footfall and income.
Hall, of RH Hall, took a similar view, saying that a barbecue can be kept as simple as “firing up the BBQ on a summers day” or making it into a bigger event that includes entertainment such as live music.
But with bigger events comes the need for further planning and firms recommended the use of shelters such as gazebos to ensure a barbecue can proceed regardless of the weather.
Al Thaker, marketing manager at McCormick Flavour Solutions, said it pays for operators to invest in a quality outdoor area.
“A British summer can be unpredictable but with the nation’s love for al fresco dining, pubs will do well to tempt their customers outside – even if it’s under cover to escape rain,” said Thaker.
“All it takes is a covered terrace or a bunting-festooned gazebo in the garden and you’ve got it covered.”
Beyond barbecue equipment, the food must also be given careful consideration.
Bill Cooke at Cinders Barbecues said there are two vital steps to guarantee a barbecue’s success: ensuring the equipment is as close to the kitchen as possible, and ensuring there’s more on offer than just meat. He suggested adding stir fry vegetables and chunky ‘barbecue’ chips.
Steve Love, principal research chef at McCormick Flavour Solutions, said gourmet burgers can make a great addition to the offer, as the burger trend continues to evolve.