Roll with it this summer

Quality is crucial in every aspect of barbecue food offer


WHEN it comes to creating any bar or restaurant menu, quality ingredients are the cornerstone. And the same approach should be taken when it comes to barbecue menus too.

Food producers and suppliers told SLTN there should be no corner-cutting when it comes to barbecue food if operators are to reap the full benefits. And, with COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit the number of customers inside venues, an al fresco area with a quality menu to match can pay dividends for operators over the coming months.

Scott Oakes, commercial manager at bakery business St Pierre, whose products include brioche burger buns and brioche hot dog rolls, said operators and chefs should ensure quality ingredients are used in every aspect of a barbecue menu – from burger to bun and everything in between.

“One thing is for sure: it’s no longer enough to offer an overcooked burger and a few chargrilled sausages,” he said.

“Driven by the street food revolution and increased demand for global flavours, BBQ diners are seeking quality, flavoursome and visually-attractive menus. Of course the meat, the cooking technology, even the condiments are all important considerations to drive summer sales, but one area that caterers can’t afford to lack thought in is in the choice of bread carrier.

“In this age of social media, people eat with their eyes; they want an ‘Instagrammable’ finish, and the burger bun or hot dog roll is critical to this.

“This is more than just a functional item to hold the product. A good quality bread carrier is part of the appeal; an easy way to add margin and, crucially, to add to the visual appeal.

“Consider the value of premiumisation. It’s a growing trend in foodservice, driven by globalisation of flavours and also the idea that people are more willing to treat themselves when eating out after spending so long indoors over the last 12 months.

“By making simple changes to the menu, whether upgrading burger buns to brioche or introducing a Wagyu beef burger option, licensees can really add value.”

A broad and varied menu which goes beyond the traditional fayre of burgers and sausages is crucial to any successful barbecue offer, firms said.

Gordon Lauder, managing director of Central Foods, whose range includes KaterVeg vegan burgers and sausages, said offering quality meat-free and plant-based options is increasingly important as more people adopt a vegan diet.

“Vegan and plant-based options continue to rise in popularity and all the indications are that this trend will carry on once we’re through the pandemic,” he said.

“A survey by The Vegan Society last year found that one in five Brits has cut down on meat consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic; the survey also revealed that half of those who had tried vegan meat alternatives such as vegan burgers and sausages said they would keep on buying them after lockdown.

“Meat-free options offer a number of benefits, including increased yield and convenience. There’s no shrinkage compared to meat equivalents, which means caterers can serve dishes that have better plate coverage and provide better visual value for money perceptions.

“We believe that vegan and plant-based options will continue to be one of the top trends for 2021, fuelled not only by the increasing number of vegans but also by those who are reducing their meat intake and choosing a flexitarian diet for health and environmental reasons.”

Of course a barbecue isn’t just about burgers and buns.

Accompaniments are just as important – and can help boost profits further.

Rocky Page, food service and industrial controller at speciality dairy firm Eurilait, said cheese is an increasingly popular barbecue ingredient.

“In answer to the surge in demand for alternative meat choices, hot eating cheese has become a popular option and a credible ‘hero’ ingredient for many dishes; the increasing appeal of continental cheeses is apparent as consumers seek inspiration for meat free choices or simply wish to experience more variety,” he said.

“We predict the growth of hot eating cheese to continue, with this in mind, we have expanded our Alfresco brand beyond the initial BBQ offer to feature exciting European flavours, which can be enjoyed for indoor and outdoor dining. Included in the range now are authentic Cypriot Halloumi Fries, alongside a Mediterranean-style Baking Feta, Cheese Steaks and a Carbonara-style Baking Camembert, all evoking the tastes of sunshine, and a nod to the freedom that we’ve all been longing for!”

Sauces and marinades are further important considerations when it comes to a barbecue offer.

McCormick Flavour Solutions, whose brands include Schwartz, Bick’s relishes and Frank’s Red Hot sauces, said its latest Flavour Forecast report shows demand for bold, spicy flavours is set to continue.

“Consumers crave it – heat and spice offer a sensory experience and enjoyment like no other,” said a spokeswoman for the company.

“As 2020 brought about a new normal, demand for global flavours will likely increase with consumers facing unpredictable travel restrictions. Look to these global profiles for inspiration for restaurant menus including condiments.”

And the traditional burger accompaniment of chips should not be overlooked.

Andrea Deutschmanek, country marketing manager for the UK and ROI at frozen potato product supplier Lamb Weston, said “there’s no better accompaniment than the humble, oh so versatile and much-loved potato”.

“We’ve seen an increase in the demand for frozen food due to the benefits of the produce being frozen at the peak of its quality and therefore offering chefs consistency; hygiene factors also come into play and longer best before dates,” she said.