The Vintners Association of Irealand survey assessed the impact of the food offering in Irish pubs and provided a clearer picture of the realities of delivering a successful food service.
25% of members do not offer food – 4% used to provide it and 5% plan to do so.
Of those that do offer food, 21% of them have been doing so for under 20 years, 9% under 10 years and 11% under five years.
Some 55% rate a food offering as ‘highly important’ while 18% regard it as ‘important’. Only around 5% rate it as ‘unimportant’.
Most (68%) were driven to offer food because of customer expectations and changing consumer habits (50%).
But running a food operation is not easy and it seems that a majority, 56%, would rather have a beverage-only pub, if this were feasible today.
Recruiting well-qualified staff is the most significant challenge facing publicans implementing a food offering on their premsises according to the survey.
Some 78% thought this to be the most challenging factor in implementing/having a food offering while 67% reckoned the cost of buying/renting was also significant. Managing staff was considered the most challenging by 61% but implementing a HACCP system got a 60% score in terms of the most challenging aspect.
80% of respondents believed that ‘quality of food’ was the most critical factor in having a successful food offering along with having a head chef (50%).
‘Waiting staff’ were considered ‘most critical’ by 48% of respondents while having a children’s menu, at 51%, was considered ‘critical’ and having a good wine selection/size of food offering were each considered ‘critical’ by 50% of respondents.
“The survey reveals that publicans correctly recognise the need to provide a professional food operation,” VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben told Drinks Industry Ireland, “Customer expectation has driven this move to food with the public expecting innovation and choice.
“As a sector we won’t be returning to what might be called the ‘old days’. Food will continue to play an integral role in our members’ offering and the number of pubs serving food will only increase over the coming years.”
But the biggest issue for publicans when it comes to serving food is sourcing qualified staff.
“We spoke to one VFI member recently who said he’s thinking of travelling to South Africa to recruit chefs, such is the lack of availability in Ireland and Europe,” added Padraig Cribben, “That type of solution is not sustainable in the long term.”