A Roasting Success
There is nothing better than a Sunday roast. And now, thanks to the British Roast Dinner Week (26 September – 2 October), more outlets are being encouraged to make a roast available every day of the week. “With more and more pubs looking to food as a way to boost sales, serving the UK’s favourite pub meal every day is a massive opportunity,” said Chris Brown, channel trade marketing manager at Unilever Food Solutions who organise British Roast Dinner Week, sponsored by COLMAN’S® and supported by KNORR®, which is currently in its fifth year.
The week-long celebration of Britain’s best-loved dish culminates in a competition to find the country’s best roast dinner.
“Pubs don’t even have to enter the competition to feel the benefits,” said Chris. “After putting on a roast every day of the week for British Roast Dinner Week, The White Bull in Alston saw a 45% uplift in covers and a 10% rise in profits.” But for those who want to put their roast forward to win, then this year as well as a national winner there are regional winners in south England, north England, Midlands, Wales and Scotland too.
Bring in the bookings
Being known for producing top-notch roasts is a sure-fire way to bring in the bookings. Last year’s winner The Larwood and Voce in West Bridgford, Nottingham smashed its record number
of covers, with reservations jumping 60%. Leroy Allen, executive chef said, “Winning Best British Roast Dinner has done wonders for us. Before we were shortlisted, we averaged about 170 covers on a Sunday. We now have over 270 covers Sunday after Sunday.” The Duke of Wellington, East Horsley, Surrey served a different roast every day during roast dinner week. “We had people phoning up on a Wednesday and asking if we were serving a roast – we did at least 500 roast dinners that week!” said Lee Bradshaw, director. “The effect has been way, way greater than I expected it to be. We are fully booked now for weeks in advance and it’s been like that since being shortlisted.”
A winning roast
So what does it take to produce a winning roast? Chris Brown explains: “Standards were exceptionally high across the board, and to choose between the five finalists was an extremely close call, but The Larwood and Voce just had the edge over the rest. Not only does it offer perfectly cooked food in a welcoming pub setting, there are plenty of innovative touches too, such as the option to buy a takeaway roast dinner or bring in your own veg in exchange for a free pint.” One of the judges, food critic and Masterchef star Charles Champion said for him it was because their Sunday menu offers four different roast dinners. “As well as roast beef (tender, and a good sized portion) you can choose from roast lamb, honey roast gammon, or a whole roast chicken for families to share,” said Charles. “At the weekend this gastropub is buzzing and you can hear the urgent clatter of knives and forks. The classic roast dinner is alive and well and living in Nottingham.”
Make it special
Making your roast stand out from the competition will not only increase footfall but entice customers to return. “A little bit of extra effort goes a long way,” said Chris Brown. “Putting a special twist on your roast will make it stand out. Having lashings of extra gravy on hand is one way or add apple and cider to pork gravy, red wine and thyme for beef and rosemary and garlic for lamb.”
Something for everyone
Make sure your menu includes options for diners with special diets. With more customers suffering with coeliac disease or just choosing to opt for a gluten-free diet, having a gluten free roast on your menu is crucial. “It makes good business sense,” said Chris Brown. “84% of people with coeliac disease are the decision maker on where their group go to eat and 81% would travel for more than half an hour to go visit a venue they trust. In other words, if you’re known as the pub that does a great gluten-free roast, you’ll not only win the business of people with coeliac disease but everyone they dine with too.” One particular pub who serves a successful gluten-free roast dinner is the 2014 British Roast Dinner Week winner Truscott Arms, in west London. “We’ve always offered an extensive gluten-free menu and our roasts are no exception,” said Andrew Fishwick, owner. “Our eldest daughter is coeliac – so we’ve always been aware how difficult eating out can be for people with coeliac disease. All our gravies are always gluten free as standard (properly made gravy always is!) and we offer fluffy gluten-free Yorkshire puddings too. We have people travel from all over the world for our Sunday roast and offering a great gluten free option has really helped strengthen our reputation.”
A tasty and homemade vegetarian option is also guaranteed to go down with non-meat eaters and those just looking for something different.
Tips from the Top
Leroy Allen, executive chef at The Larwood and Voce pub shares his secret on how to make and serve a top class roast.
• For us it’s all about consistency – making sure the last roast is as good as the first no matter how many covers you have done.
• Use local produce where possible – we get on really well with our local butchers and they provide us with all our meat. Plus, we get fresh veg from some of the community in return for a pint or two!
• Choose the right wine – suggesting a bottle of red to complement the roast beef not only impresses the customers, it tops up your spend per head too. We’ve added our favourite bottles to our Sunday menu – and made sure our team can make a recommendation based on the food each customer orders.
• Make your gravy unique – we roast chicken bones to make a stock and reduce it down. Our meats are roasted on a trivet, and we add the juices to the stock and deglaze with wine. We ‘pass’ this and reduce it down further to thicken and intensify the flavour before seasoning it with redcurrant jelly, Maldon sea salt, black pepper and aged sherry vinegar. Customers always ask for another jug, so we make sure there’s plenty in reserve!
• Make sure you have your own ‘must haves’ that make your roast extra special – ours is a great big fluffy Yorkshire pudding and every roast comes with extra crispy roast potatoes (made with goose fat).