Food and drink have such a strong link. Pair them perfectly, and you’ll enrich the guest experience. But what has the last 18 months or so taught us, and what will change going forward?
Will Bar Food Be Mandatory Again?
Whether it was having to purchase a ‘substantial meal’ to buy alcohol or having a curfew for guests, restrictions have been far from easy for those in the hospitality sector to decipher. Who can forget the scotch egg fiasco? The famous British snack saw a huge increase in sales after Michael Gove announced that they met the criteria. But when Boris Johnson stated ‘bar snacks’ didn’t meet the new rules during this time, it confused many and left operators unsure of what to serve.
People are out and ready to party, an enticing food section means extra indulgence on a night out. So, now that you’re used to serving food, you might consider making a profit from a bar snack menu. What should you consider?
Peanut bowls on the bar top have always had a bad rep because of the associated germs, so now more then ever, you should do away with plates that encourage multiple users. The risk of transmitting or catching Covid from food items or packaging are low, but operators should still take precautions. Food that’s picked at, rather than double dipped, is safer. So, for example, a grazing board of veg or meat for a table of six would be fine, but a selection of crudités and a shared bowl of hummus is a bad idea. If you want to be completely safe, single-serve plates are the way forward.
Usually, bartenders would be able to share their expertise on what flavours and textures pair well with their drinks, but with table service only, for now, you’ll have to make your menu, floor staff or app work extra hard. If you’re trailing something unfamiliar to your customers, keep things simple, so your guests won’t need bartender training to know what to choose.
Bar snacks have come a long since Frank Smith was selling crisps with sachets of salt, or KP nuts launched their snack range in 1953. However, there are some basic principals inherent in these classics it’s worth remembering. Salty snacks encourage thirst, protein fills you up, carbohydrates give you energy, and flavours like chilli or lemon can make you feel alert and lively. Having a range of tastes on offer will help you boost your sales.
Over the years, we’ve become more adventurous with food. What were once seen as higher-end tastes like avocado or artichokes are more ubiquitous. Basic snack offerings now include pork scratchings, olives, halloumi, cured meats and flavoured popcorn. Could you take something traditional and make it unique, or do you want to try something totally new?
Whereas once wine would’ve once been the natural choice for pairing drinks and food, cocktails and spirits are standing their ground. They offer a broad depth of flavours to play with, and the range of potential pairings is vast. But don’t get bogged down in choice. There are some simple principals you can follow when devising a menu.
What To Consider When Pairing Food With Cocktails
1. Palette Cleansers
Are neutral-flavoured mouthfuls typically eaten between meals to remove residual flavours from previous courses. They could be helpful on a bar menu to either lay the groundwork for an unusual drink or to offer between drinks. Palette cleansers include tart or citrus sorbets, bread, fruit slices, or pickles.
2. Agreeable Flavours
Agreeable flavours do your everyman work. They are light, uncomplicated, savoury and mild. Antipasti can provide a great light snack for those with less of an appetite. Brined vegetables like olives generally pair well with the majority of savoury drinks.
3. Complimenting Flavours
Enhance and complement your cocktails, so it’s important to identify your recipe’s key tasting notes—pair nutty tones with spices or berry flavours with woody herbs like rosemary or thyme. You’ll find that salt isn’t always best for aged spirits, and it may be better to stick umami flavours such as tomatoes, cured meats or strong cheese like parmesan.
4. Contrasting Flavours
Contrasting flavours battle in your mouth for dominance, but you can achieve complexity if you balance it right. Vodka and caviar pairs bright, zesty notes with briny seafood, and the grassy spice of chilli pairs beautifully with the roasted notes of dark chocolate.
5. Salty or Sweet
Don’t forget that bar snacks don’t have to reflect a meal. You can go straight for dessert or stick with the starters. Take the Sazerac. The boozy aniseed flavour punches through a decadent chocolate dessert.
6. Food Preferences
The rise of vegetarianism and veganism has conquered the snack industry as of late. With more of us taking on the planet-conscious diet, you can get inventive with options that would appeal to veggies and meat-eaters alike.
With the hospitality sector struggling after the seemingly endless lockdowns, let’s rejoice at the more freedom the Government have set out for us and use it wisely. Bar snacks offer the chance for an incredible night out as well as a profitable business.