While beer was being thrown up towards the sky whenever England scored during the World Cup, chip sales were going through the roof too.
During the tournament, BB Foodservice reported sales of chips rocketing as fans looked for quick and easy eating options to go with their drink.
This comes as no real surprise. Food sales in pubs and clubs continue to grow and sports fans are more likely to opt for convenience rather than going gourmet.
So, here’s some ideas on food trends and ways to keep your customers appetites satisfied.
Rob Madigan, licensee of the Horseshoe in London’s Clerkenwell, has a good general rule to go by when it comes to serving food during big games.
“Anything that doesn’t involve cutlery”, he explains. “Sports fans like a drink in one hand and the food in the other.”
This rules in popular handheld items such as chips, burgers, chicken wings, hot dogs, nachos, wraps and sandwiches and probably rules out your finest spaghetti carbonara.
Cater for the occasion
What people want to eat will depend very much on what you are showing. If sport is in the background or you’re showing a lower-energy event then there is no reason why a full menu with table service can’t work. It’s really during high energy events such as Fight Nights and big Champions League or Premier League matches when convenience will be the key.
HQ Sports Bar in Dunstable had a huge World Cup. The 45-screen venue was packed to its 500 capacity for every England game and videos of fans celebrating England goals went viral with millions viewing the clips on Twitter.
But those fans had to be fed too.
Manager Jack Wright said: “We wanted to keep the bar free for people buying drinks so the food was cooked up and we took it around to people so they could buy it there and then.”
Hands up if you want a burger? Fans at HQ Sports Bar were up for the World Cup
Franchise your kitchen
HQ Sports Bar has taken the stress out of managing its food operation by teaming-up with a local restaurant. It used to run its own kitchen but has found it’s better for business to franchise that part of the business.
Jack continues: “They have a smokehouse so they do a great selection of barbecue food such as steaks and brisket burgers. It works for us because it allows us to concentrate on what we do best. They take the money on the food – but when people are eating they’re drinking.”
Keep it simple
If you do run your own kitchen you might want to consider reducing the menu items available on matchdays to ease the burden on your staff.
At the Fox & Hounds in Putney the menu is stripped back to burgers, chicken wings and other simple meals.
Manager Colin Woods says: “The menu is cut back to make it easier for the kitchen team and the customers because the usual menu is quite big. We have some special deals and it works well.”
The pub has also introduced a clever system for fans to attract the attention of staff – meaning they don’t have to miss any of the action by going to the bar to order food or drink.
You can then return to your full menu when the pub is less packed.
Another way of easing the strain in the kitchen is with a humble buffet. Rob at The Horseshoe says this helps the pub’s preparations.
He says: “We hired out tables in the garden for the World Cup and had guests pre-ordering buffets. It was simple things like sandwiches, chips, sausages and pizzas. It helped us out because we could get the food out well before peak time.
“It’s nice and easy, beer in one hand and food in the other.”
Food for thought
While your classic burgers and wings are sure fire winners there are other trends worth bearing in mind.
Latin America street food has grown in popularity in the last 12 months which means tacos could have a home on your menu.
Meat supplier Danish Crown, which has analysed reports from Mintel and Waitrose among others, also points to the influence of Middle Eastern food. For pubs and clubs this could mean pittas, hummus and other dips.
Healthy options are also on the rise so consider the growing numbers of vegan, veggie and gluten-free customers.