I know many of you won’t want to think back to mid-March. I know many won’t want to think back to any of the past six months, but bear with me a moment while we look at takeaways and deliveries. For it was on 17 March when planning rules were relaxed for pubs and bars, allowing them all to operate as a takeaway service, preparing thousands of businesses for the remaining monumental changes on the way.
While as a nation we weren’t yet locked down, I made a conscious decision then and there to start exploring as many of the new and existing takeaway and delivery services in my area as possible. The exercise regime would also have to be upped, as an increased diet of pizza, fish and chips, burgers and whatever else operators deemed to “travel well” made its way to my postcode. But I didn’t stop there, oh no. Local bottle shops were also on my radar – wines whizzed their way to me, boxes of beer also shared the journey. Paradoxically, my food and drink expenditure shot up as the on-trade shut down. All of a sudden I had the owners of these businesses, whom I was used to greeting over their bar, stood on my doorstep, delivering food and drink personally, doing all they could to stay afloat. I remember chatting to Tim Sheehan, who runs Franklins, a popular SE22 pub on Lordship Lane, just after he decided to launch a fish and chip takeaway service. “Well, we’ve got to do something,” he shrugged.
Ordinarily, Franklins is the type of pub-restaurant that doesn’t cater for takeaways. Or, more to the point, the business has never needed to look at adjusting its menu to add that extra service. Since reopening, the fish and chips offer has stopped, as Sheehan looks to recuperate his clientele through familiar food items and lunch menu offers. Of course, while every on-trade operation is unique in its own right, how the industry as a whole adapted to offering takeaways and deliveries was beyond admirable… but, as with Franklins, it’s not always a given to continue. For years, we’ve eulogised the potential this revenue stream has to offer, but since thousands were forced into literally delivering it to survive, it will be fascinating to see how many will actually see it as worth their time and effort once we’re back to (dare I say it?) normal. This is before operators even consider forming partnerships with deliverooberjusteats.
For many, it was Mother’s Day that threw them into the deep end when it came to preparing food and drink to be taken off premise. Hundreds of Sunday roasts suddenly had a new form to take – they were being packed into tupperware. Ross Robinson, operations director of Red Fox & Peacock Limited, formerly known as Lytham Hospitality Group, attributes their new Sunday roast service to shaping how they will tackle takeaway options going forward.
“We’re going to add a takeaway service as an additional income stream once we’re established,” he says, when speaking about his new Star Pubs & Bars lease Lytham House. “During lockdown we introduced a takeaway service at our other pubs, which we got down to a fine art, cooking 500 Sunday roasts for collection each week. We have some great businesses and restaurants in the town that are ready to adapt to the new environment and challenges.”
Research from Barclaycard seen by Pub & Bar shows that takeaways and fast food have seen a 20.7% increase in orders since this time last year, showing that while lockdown upped such services, the trend was always on the rise.
However, as we know, takeaway and delivery came into its own during lockdown, with many pubs and bars turning their operations into grocery shops, drive-thrus, takeaways and delivery services. Aviko’s Home Delivery Report 2020 revealed that a whopping 98% of the consumers it surveyed ordered delivery or takeaway during lockdown.
But were there any surprises in what UK consumers were ordering? Well, not really. Lamb Weston, which has focused extensively on helping operators deliver potato-based products over the past few years, sent us some facts and figures from Foodhub around ordering patterns. Orders of fish and chips more than doubled during lockdown, with a 208% increase. Burgers were up 158%, with doner kebabs close behind at 156%. Funnily enough, there were plenty of chips being ordered as well.
“Consumers expect hot fries and for that heat to remain while they eat their meal,” says Nic Townsend, Farm Frites marketing manager for UK & Ireland. “Our range is well suited to casual, fast casual and takeaway menus, as well as being ideal for delivery where products need to stay tasting their best longer. We know how important it is to create consistency in a chip offering.”
Although a brand-wide reaction wasn’t immediate, Greene King were one of the pubcos to ensure menu staples were being offered to consumers on a takeaway and delivery basis. Again, would a business of such stature have introduced such an offer were it not for it being an absolute necessity at the time? More to the point, will they keep it going beyond the pandemic? It is more than likely.
It began the introduction of delivery and takeaway services within its Metropolitan Pub Company division in London towards the end of May. Twenty-nine pubs offered delivery, 10 of which also provided a click and collect takeaway service. The menu options included, you’ve guessed it, fish and chips, burgers and Sunday roasts. Yes, many operators may have considered launching a takeout in the past, but there is every chance we will now see a much more varied and ambitious array of pub meals arriving at people’s homes. From the full-on tradition of roast dinners to the experimental world of street food cuisine, the possibilities are endless.
“Recent research shows that customers are seeking more street food and sharing-style menus, meaning there is an opportunity to create convenient and exciting dishes that are full of flavour,” says Kim Hartley, business development chef at Mission Foods. “The current street food market is now worth an estimated £1.2bn in the UK and is not showing any signs of slowing down.”
What’s right for you?
As with any additional element of your business, it is all about doing what’s right for you. However, the week before we sent this magazine to the printers, the prime minister introduced the latest restrictions on pub and bar operations, enforcing all venues to adhere to a new 10pm curfew. With consumer confidence low and operational constraints high, one could argue that when it comes to takeaways and/or deliveries, what have you got to lose? Should your venue have a kitchen, it seems that, if you haven’t already, now is the time to offer this added convenience to your customers. This doesn’t mean that you have to immediately begin navigating the logistics of delivery, but it could be a gentler introduction of offering drinks and pre-prepared meals for guests to pick up. Show those high street supermarkets what a real gastropub meal at home looks like!
My local, Franklins, decided that fish and chips was the right choice for them, and they had queues of loyal locals patiently lining the pavements of SE22 on Friday and Saturday nights. Yummy Pub Co, our lead interview in this edition, observed the popularity of takeaway meals during lockdown, so have decided to continue offering high quality dishes for collection. The examples are everywhere, so if you’re looking for lessons to take away on how to develop this side of your operation, you won’t have to look hard for exemplary peer-to-peer inspiration.