THERE’s no denying the lure of a barbecue on a hot summer’s day, often capable of piquing the interest (and hunger) of passing trade.
But operators who decide to utilise a barbecue this year need to get the offer just right if they want to transform that extra footfall into extra profit.
Kris Brearley, sales director at RH Hall, said that cooking outdoors “can provide a great focus for special events such as bank holidays, but can also provide a great source of extra income every weekend”.
He reckons that barbecues needn’t be complicated, as even a simple menu can be enough to drum up extra custom.
“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, providing they have the right equipment in place,” he said.
But to keep customers intrigued once they’ve crossed the threshold, it’s important to keep abreast of food trends, according to Steve Love of McCormick Flavour Solutions.
He reckons that dishes such as ‘dirty burgers’, burritos, and pulled pork all fall under the American food banner – which he said “is one hot trend that pubs can cash in on”.
Operators should ensure they have the right kit to turn out a variety of dishes.
Street food is another growing trend that operators should keep an eye on, according to Brearley of RH Hall.
He said it’s ideal for incorporating in a barbecue offer as it “is usually presented in a handheld, informal way”.
“Street food is all about flavour and quality of cooking, so operators should ensure they have the right kit to turn out a variety of dishes,” he said.
As well as newer food trends, barbecue staples, such as burgers and sausages, are likely to remain popular.
Mark Turnbull, chairman of the Q Guild of Butchers, which produces barbecue products for both catering and consumer markets, said the group has “noticed an increasing trend for pubs and restaurants who are looking for barbecue-style dishes”; he reckons that sausages have remained a perennial barbecue favourite.
If the forecast is good and large numbers are expected ensure staff levels are considered.
“Sausages with strength of flavour are best for barbecuing so that they are not overpowered by the smoke or chargrilling process,” he said.
Burgers, too, are likely to remain in high demand.
“Gourmet burgers’ popularity will prevail, particularly if the ingredients acknowledge key food trends and flavours,” said Richard Newton-Jones of Snowdonia Cheese Company.
Emma Macdonald, founder of condiment firm The Bay Tree, took a similar stance but suggested switching up classics as a great way of boosting barbecue food sales. For instance, she said simple twists such as glazing sausages in marmalade “can turn an ordinary summertime classic into something extraordinary”.
As well as getting the food offer right, operators must also consider other factors – namely, outdoor events.
Brearley of RH Hall said events “often bring in new customers, particularly on sunny days”.
He took the view that while events “can be kept as simple as firing up the barbecue”, they can also “be enhanced with music or family entertainment to increase the draw”.
However, with any larger-scale event, there has to be a greater degree of forward thinking and planning, according to Brearley.
“If the weather forecast is looking good and large numbers are expected, operators should ensure staff levels are considered and also ensure the bar is well stocked – when the sun comes out, record sales can be achieved,” he said. However, he stressed that operators “should always ensure they are prepared for more traditional [Scottish] weather”.
Look after a barbecue in exactly the same way as you would a kitchen appliance.
This can be achieved through the creation of covered seating areas with gazebos and marquees, allowing outdoor events to continue.
But in order to capitalise on the above, operators must ensure they are properly equipped ahead of summertime. Brearley said selecting the right grill is crucial for any licensee looking to introduce a barbecue offer for the first time.
“First and foremost, caterers should ensure that they are purchasing truly commercial equipment,” he said.
“Many domestic barbecues look the part, but will not last or be able to recover quickly during a busy service.”
For instance, Brearley reckons that while many domestic models utilise stainless steel, they are of lighter construction and will not be up to the task of heavy commercial use.
“Remember that you would not buy a domestic cooker for your commercial kitchen, so apply the same thought process for your outdoor barbecue,” he said.
Taking a similar stance, David Watts, Buffalo brand manager for Nisbets, reckons it’s important that operators select a barbecue “that’s suited for frequent use within a commercial environment”. Another factor, according to Watts, is to give “careful consideration to possible future as well as current levels of demand”.
Regardless of the model selected, ensuring it is covered by a commercial warranty is vital, according to Brearley.
Once purchased, setting in place a regular maintenance routine is key to getting the most life out of a barbecue, reckons Glenn Roberts, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA).
“Treat it well and it will serve you well,” he said.
“Look after it in exactly the same way as you would a kitchen appliance – including getting it serviced and maintained regularly.”
Echoing this view, Karen Swift of Cinders Barbecues said “the key to making your barbecue equipment last longer is to clean it before you store it”.
“Some barbecues offer internal self-cleaning which means no dismantling, and starting again with a clean barbecue makes setting up so much easier,” she said.
“Keep a maintenance log as you would for any other piece of catering equipment and make sure it is checked over at the beginning of the season and not just before an important event.”