Selling More Food – There is no Magic Bullet!

‘It’s a question of doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well.’

(F.Prager- Founder of Movenpick)

Irish Publicans are very good at what they do. They love their pubs and are proud of what they create for their very loyal, if slightly more impoverished customers. They are constantly looking at ways in which the business can be tweaked, improved, spruced up and modernized. They are embracing the new technologies and using them very effectively to reach their existing and new customers. But … mention the word FOOD to the majority of publicans and he/she visibly pales at the thought.

Many publicans today are serving very good food and have deservedly been recognized for their efforts, both by the public and awarding bodies. There are however, scores if not hundreds of publicans serving food which ranges from poor to inedible who then lie awake wondering why they are not selling more of it.

Before addressing the issue of selling more food, it is important to take a rain check on some fundamentals which might be A) keeping customers away B) shaving money off the bottom line.

If you can answer YES to the following questions you are well on your way to success.


1. Have you experienced your own pub offering as a customer in the last six months?

2. Have you eaten your own pub food in the last two weeks?

3. Is your pub spotless, inside and outside?

4. If there were four steaks missing, would you know?

5. Are your toilets spotless?

6. If you were buying more food than you need for your business, would you know?

7. If your chef were buying food for his/her family, friends at your expense, would you know?

8. If food was being poorly prepared so that 1/3 or more was being thrown in the bin, would you know?

9. If your chef had a deal going with the delivery man which means that your business is being defrauded, would you know?

10. Have you watertight control systems at the back door?

a. Trained and fully competent person checking in and responsible for deliveries.
b. Invoice only deliveries.
c. Scales to weigh meat, fish etc
d. Cross checking system for ordering /invoices/ credit notes/good in.
e. Agreed delivery times with supplier.
f. Waste management for food, water, gas, electricity, cardboard, plastic, glass, tin etc.

11. If money was being stolen from your cash register, would you know?

12. If your kitchen staff were helping themselves to your food/consumables, would you know?

13. Is all the kitchen equipment in good working order so that kitchen staff ( including Kitchen Porter) can do their jobs easily and without constant improvisation and hassle through broken, half operating or lack of proper equipment.

14.   Is your food good quality i.e.

a. Do you serve a really good homemade soup – not made from yesterdays left over vege?
b. Do you serve a good sandwich on quality bread, home cooked ham or beef, quality sauces or relishes?
c. If you have carvery, do you serve quality meat, fresh seasonal vegetables, homemade sauces, gravy and real desserts.
d. If you have a carvery, do you monitor waste ruthlessly?
e. If you have a carvery, are you making money on each meal you serve?
f. If you have a carvery, are you confident that you are serving what your customers are looking for?

15. Are you using transparent refuse sacks for kitchen waste so that you can see what is being thrown out?

16. Are you using clear boxes at work stations to see who and where most waste is being generated?

17. Are you staff spotlessly presented and create a professional impression?

18. Do your front of house staff care about your business?

19.   Do your front of house staff know and sell your products?

20.   Do your front of house staff care about your customers?

21. Does everyone who is working in your pub care as much as you do about its progress?

22. Do you regularly meet staff to give and receive feedback?

23. Does the exterior of your premises look inviting to customers?

24. Does the menu/menu board look inviting?

25. Does your product live up to the menu promises?

26. If you were a potential customer, would you be enticed in?

27. Do you have a website/ Facebook page?

28. If you do, is it attractive and enticing to web customers?

29. Do you know what people are saying about your business on Trip Advisor?

30. Do you know your regulars who come in day after day?

31. Do you know what they like to eat, where they like to sit, how long they have to spare on having lunch, how they like their coffee served?

32. Do your staff know these things? Do they care?

33. Do your staff know that you appreciate them?

34. Do your staff have a nice space to ‘chill’ before they go back to your customers?

If you have answered yes to all of the above, you probably don’t need to read anymore.

Selling More Food

1. Serve Quality Food & Drinks

  • The public are no longer fooled by soup made from yesterdays left over vegetables whizzed up with water and a stock cube or plastic ham on woolly bread or convenience sauces and sides dressed up as homemade.
  • The country is awash with fresh vegetables, fruit, cheeses, meat and other great food often available in the locality of the business. Support local suppliers and they will support you.
  • Serve Great Coffee – it is often the last taste on a customers palate when they leave your premises. Ensure that all staff can make a great cup of coffee.

2. Take Charge of your Kitchen

  • If you don’t know what is going on in your kitchen, chances are there is a lot going on that you need to know about. The kitchen management systems need to be put in place by you- the owner- and implemented by your chefs/cooks.
  • Systems ensure control of resources and consistency of quality in the food on offer to your customer.
  • Ensure that the kitchen staff have the equipment in good working order) that they need to do their job.

3. Staff & Service Skills

  • The easiest way for your business to stand out from your competitors and to sell more food in the process is in the area of staffing and service .
  • Why? Because the level of service skills and customer care in a frighteningly large number of businesses today is appalling. Staff are dressed like they rolled in from a Goth concert, are routinely rude, don’t know or care what the menu is about and have absolutely no concept of the term ‘service skills’. They gather in corners and gossip about customers or the hottest social news, are super-glued to their mobile phones and positively bristle when interrupted from a life changing text that needs to be sent.
  • Set Standards, put systems in place to make them happen and make no apologies to anyone for implementing them. If your standard dictates that staff should turn up for work dressed in a particular way then there can be no deviations from that – send them home if they don’t match the standard. It’s your business that is at stake.
  • Train Staff so that they know what your standards are
    • Service Skills – simple, age old techniques- essential.
    • Customer care – smiling, connecting, really caring.
    • Product knowledge – they should be able to sell ice to Eskimos.
    • Local Knowledge – added value
    • Smile – it’s free, it’s positive and it’s contagious.
  • Look after good Staff
    • Create a nice space (doesn’t have to be big) for staff to chill in.
    • Show gratitude for a job well done.
    • How can staff who are treated badly be expected to be nice to customers?

4. Premises

  • Present a spotless premises, from the front door to the back. Dirt is ‘so last century’.

5. Spread the News

  • If you have a great product that you are proud of, tell everyone. There are numerous free mediums now to do so. Facebook, Twitter, Website, in-house advertising, local radio, outside the premises. Keep the message short, clear and professional.

6. Food Display

  • If you have great cakes, breads, desserts, can your customers see them? We eat with our eyes so display your food proudly where the maximum number of people will see and be enticed to buy. Use different levels when displaying to create and interesting picture. Use attractive dishes/bowls to display.
  • If you have a Carvery (which can be a money pit) make sure that the food is of excellent quality and that the containers are constantly refreshed and cleaned up during service. There is nothing more off putting that a thick scum of dried in sauce around the edges of containers. Keep the amounts small and replenish regularly.
  • If you have a Carvery- put smiley chefs behind the counter and chefs who can charm while they control portions.

7. Menu Boards

  • Write in a clear concise way. A short list of legibly written items from which a quick decision can be made will encourage customers to relax rather than be irritated by poorly written, overcrowded boards.

8. Menu

  • Plan menus so that lunch can be served quickly (as speed is of the essence at lunchtime) and dinner can be served efficiently even if Pub fills up and many orders come in at once.
  • Print menus in -house so that they can reprinted quickly if there is any sign of dirt, grease or tears on the menu.
  • Use the menu as a marketing tool with all your contact information etc on it. Give them away freely and encourage customers to give them to their friends Do a ‘take away to tell the folks’ Menu – pocket size.
  • Keep menus short, seasonal and understandable.

9. Regulars

  • Mind the people who like you and your business. Get to know what they like and ensure that the kitchen know what food they prefer. Train all staff to look after these ‘golden geese’ as they are hard to replace if you let them down.

10. The Silver Dollar & Women Diners

  • Huge spending power at the moment and for the next several decades in the 50+ but particularly the 65+ age group. Very few businesses are capitalizing on this potential. There is so much money available to spend but this age group are not being given the opportunity to spend it. What is your business doing to provide for this sector –
  • Women eat out regularly, spend more than men on food and make the decisions on where to eat out. Is your business attracting women diners? Have you half a dozen screens displaying various types of sport, which is pretty much guaranteed to send most women fleeing for a sport free zone? Are your toilets spotless- very important to women?


To conclude, it’s the little things that still count.