Feature: British Pie Week

While some awareness days and weeks tenuously cling onto annual diary dates, British Pie Week is an occasion pubs must cement in their calendar and never look back.

There can’t be many days left in the calendar open for awareness celebrations to be tied to. Not so long ago, the likes of St Patrick’s Day, Fairtrade Fortnight and National Burger Day were enough for hospitality operators to keep on top of, planning key marketing and activations in a timely manner to draw in that crucial extra footfall. 

So, now, we suppose the question is, are pubs and bars ready to make the most of National Kazoo Day? Or National Weaning Week? How about National Taffy Day? Are you ready for that one? There’s an argument, some might say, that not all of these ‘celebrations’ need to be honoured across the country, but, hey, if your pub is successfully garnering attention from kazoo-playing taffy enthusiasts, then fair play to you. 

There are, of course, exceptions, where these category- or product-led parties are well and truly justified when it comes to the effort operators should be putting behind them. As you might have guessed, in this particular piece, we’re talking about the wonderous seven days that make up British Pie Week. From 4 to 10 March this year, you have a whole week’s worth of opportunity to bring in guests to feast on nothing but pies – classics, specials, collaborations, pairings, shortcrust, puff pastry… the pie’s the limit. Or, actually, no it isn’t! There are no limits to what you can do.

“The humble pie is a pub food staple and for good reason,” says George Tatlow, head of NPD in foodservice at The Compleat Food Group. “Whether you’re an operator putting on your first menu or already a food-led pub, pies are a great plate-filler, best served with cost-effective sides including mashed potato, crispy chips, seasonal greens and gravy. They are the perfect comforting meal centre and offer great value for operators and diners alike. 

“British Pie Week offers operators an ideal opportunity to revitalise their pie menu or trial new types of pies, whether that’s with an exciting new filling or different type of pastry. It’s also a great way for pubs who have never had pies on their menus to use the week as a trial period, and operators can encourage further sales through promotions, such as buy one get one half price.” 

The Wrights pie made for Stonegate Group

Eyes on the pies

As Tatlow alludes to, there are thousands of pub businesses that  have made it their business to offer some of the best pies in the country, building solid reputations around steak and ale, chicken, leek and mushroom, and many more mouth-watering pairings. So what then can these established pie-oneers bring to the table when it comes to generating extra custom through something they’re already known for? Take, for example, Wiltshire’s Chickpea Group, which has its very own pie room within their site The Pembroke Arms in Wilton. What are their plans for 2024’s British Pie Week?

“The pie room at The Pembroke Arms is where all the pies are made from scratch, daily, for all the boozers,” says Chickpea Group executive chef Harry Russell. “Chickpea is known in Wiltshire for our pies. For British Pie Week, we will be celebrating local hogget from Hindon and The Fonthill Estate, and creating a special which will be on all week across the pubs – hogget, spring leek and wild garlic pie.  

“I’ve been ordering in whole animals from the farm which will be butchered in the pie room. We will also be posting recipe reels on Instagram. The price of the pie will be £22 and served with buttery mash, mushy peas and gravy. The pies have a shortcrust top and a puff pastry bottom.”

If that doesn’t get your creative juices going, we don’t know what will. However, not all operations are capable of such a bespoke approach to pie creation, so what other options are available to pub chefs? Well, it’s worth talking to your favoured suppliers in the category ASAP to see what exclusive or tailored recipe they’re able to produce for your business ahead of next month – while the product may not be homemade, it could still be unique to your site.

“We went to Wrights with a brief for them to create a premium tier offering to replace our existing pie range,” says Carl Newey, food development manager at Stonegate Group. “After months of collaborative development, Wrights created a Premium Steak and Ale Pie, a bespoke recipe for us, which uses beef dripping in a shortcrust pastry base combined with the finest cut chuck steak filling, to maximise flavour and texture.”

Whether you’ve already ordered your ingredients or didn’t even realise British Pie Week was on the immediate horizon, there’s no denying that the public need a whole host of extra incentives to leave their homes and spend some money in pubs around the country – here is an annual celebration that can act as one of those incentives. Get your recipes sorted, start talking about it online and in your venues, and deliver the type of British Pie Week that will have consumers across the land demanding it be turned into British Pie Fortnight!  

Lead image: Ed Schofield

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