menuwatching Report - Pubs & Bars 2024

What's happening across menus in the Pubs & Bars sector of late? We dive right into it with our latest menuwatching report.

The face of pubs & bars is fast changing… Once the place for alcohol and bar snacks, they are now places of excellent dining and low/no alcohol drinks too. Chefs and bars are using more seasonal and local produce, and are getting ever more creative about kitchen and garden 'waste' by upcycling overlooked scraps into delicious new ingredients.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Some pubs have newly opened in 2023 while some like the three pubs owned by Max Halley and Ethan Davies are wet-led boozers - serving alcohol and a bar menu of Scampi Fries, pickled eggs and the occasional hot sausage. Others, as we explore in the full report, are totally food led with local beers and drinks served

Here are three key takeouts from our wider Pubs & Bars report:

1. Low & No Alcohol – Pubs may be the recognised place for alcohol, but more and more consumers are looking for non-alcoholic tipples – whether they are abstaining altogether, or just taking a night off. During dry January publicans were encouraging non-drinkers to support their pub with soft drinks, often sourced from local suppliers or made in-house. Meanwhile in the lower ABV sphere, Radler style beers – a blend of fruit juice (traditionally grapefruit) and blond beer – are replacing traditional shandy. Non-alcoholic spirits are popular, but consumers are enjoying drinks made from fermented fruits and tea, too.

2. Bar-Kitchen Crossover – The bar and kitchen are influencing each other, with different alcohols (especially locally sourced or infused in-house), appearing on food menus – and cocktails & drinks appearing on food menus… especially dessert! Think negroni ice cream or margarita cheesecake. Even beers made using fruit and caramel, are named after desserts – and they are sweet enough to be served as dessert.

3. Elevated Comforts – Pub menus are littered with comfort foods, like gooey cheese fondues served with home-made bread, pickles, and charcuterie to dip in. Meanwhile Sunday lunch is elevated with local meat, e.g. wild venison or rabbit. Gravies and sauces are elevated with alcohol from the bar, or by using vintage recipes or home-made vinegars. Everybody's favourite comfort food, fried chicken is also elevated using global methods of cooking (think Korean or Taiwanese fried chicken). And last but not least, burgers go next level with 'flavour bomb' condiments… and don't limit to just one! Chilli mayo, fruit relish, fermented chutney, smoked sauce… they can all be layered up!


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