Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bring your own

The White Swan in North Walsham, Norfolk, has recently been in the news for stopping selling food and suggesting that customers bring their own. The licensee cited the new allergen regulations – which carry potentially unlimited fines – for no longer making it viable. In recent years, increased red tape has caused many pubs to question whether serving food is worthwhile, which may well be the reason behind the disappearance of lunchtime pub food in many smaller towns. Another rule which is likely to put pubs off knocking up a few sandwiches is the requirement to have a commercial kitchen entirely separate from your domestic one.

Pete Edge at the White Swan has put menus from local cafés and takeaways on display and is happy for customers to order food from them and eat it in the pub, so long as they buy a drink. There are already plenty of pubs across the country doing that, the Wellington in Birmingham being a well-known example. However, it’s essentially just a convenience for existing customers. People aren’t really going to see a pub where you can order a takeaway as a destination dining venue, and pubs also forgo the revenue from food, which can command a much higher margin than drinks.

There must be scope, though, for pubs to consider more innovative ways of providing food for their customers without taking on the overhead of doing it themselves. Maybe they could enter into a more formal partnership with takeaways, where the pub effectively becomes the takeaway’s own restaurant, and food is delivered rather than collected by customers. I would have thought too that pubs could similarly link up with local sandwich shops to provide a menu of straightforward lunchtime snacks which must be far better for trade than serving no food at all. If done right it could benefit the business of both pubs and food outlets.

Of course, it remains far more common for pubs to insist that you only eat food purchased on the premises, something an elderly Wetherspoons regular found to his cost – although I believe there was more to that than meets the eye.


  1. When Stonch was running things at the Finborough he did pretty much as you described. People could order pizzas via the bar and the bar staff picked them up from the Firezza next door and delivered them to the table along with a napkin and cutlery.

    Less formal was the arrangement at The Hob in Forest Hill that, for reasons that now elude me, I used to regularly drink at. The pub was next door to a fish and chip shop and customers were allowed to bring their fish suppers into the pub, and in doing so instantly transforming the pub, as only the smell of vinegar on chips can do.

  2. In Falmouth Cornwall, there has always been a pub called Finn McCools that proclaimed "We have got the Pub, You bring the grub". I always liked this idea and locals and visitors would bring in pasties,fish and chips etc.

  3. @Arthur - yes, the arrangement at the Finborough is the kind of thing I'm thinking of, where becomes a feature of the pub rather than just "you can bring one in if you want to."

    There's probably not that much overlap between the pub and restaurant customers so both will benefit.

  4. If it's "home-cooked" whoever's cooking it must know what's in it. If it's "home-reheated" it'll say on the packet. It's not rocket surgery.

  5. Boozer near me used to be a bit of a dump, it shut because no one used it. Kids from the local school used to eat chips in the beer garden, open or shut. Reopened as a gentrified dining pub for middle class types and is now heaving. The kids got move on, told they could not eat their chips there no more.

    That's the real crime of gentrification. The people that lose out, The kids with their chips.

    If CAMRA was an actual campaign rather than a middle aged middle class drinking club, it would do something about it. Instead of money grasping beer guides it would be campaigning for the right off all free born Englishmen to eat a Greggs sausage roll in the pub. It's basic freedom and liberty. It's Magna Carta. The kids and their chips would be back. They might even buy a cheeky cider and the future of pubs for the next generation would be secure.

    Instead we have pubs of petty rules used only by the type of people that like petty rules.

  6. The Two Brewers in Whitecross Street near Old Street operates across from a Friday food market (might be other days also). You can obtain your food and eat it in the pub.

    It makes perfect sense - great pub but awkward for smokers.

  7. Worth noting the pizza place next to the Finborough (Firezza) effectively gave me £2 every time I sold one of their pizzas - customer paid the normal takeaway price of £9.99 but I was only billed £8 a pizza. Firezza got an extra sale albeit at lower margin and I made thousands of extra clear profit per annum, all the while not losing customers who otherwise would have gone somewhere else to eat. Clever eh

  8. Order dinner in a restaurant in Istanbul and you frequently see it arriving from the kebab place down the street.

  9. The Waggon in Uppermill (ironically gone gastro itself now) used to provide the plates and cutlery and the Indian opposite used to deliver to your table.

  10. The Star in St Just and the Royal Oak in Wrexham both do this. Both of them cracking pubs

  11. I honestly think it depends on the location of the pub, city centre location it probably doesnt work so well as you are then competing with restaurant style things,but out of the centre in the suburbs it works very well IMO

    My local does this and has done for years, they supply the plates, the cutlery, the menus & press the button on the machine that does the washing up.

    and its stupidly popular during the week, so much so they had to stop allowing it on Friday/Saturday nights as it impacted so much on people just coming to the pub for a drink as there simply wasnt the room for everyone

    but people book tables,have birthdays,celebrations,meet up with friends/work colleagues, and there can be anything upto 20-30 people most nights ordering in takeaways to eat, who consume plenty of drink to go with it, helps having a good selection of local takeaways literally across the road so people can pop over and order in the time it takes to get served at the bar, which can then be delivered or picked up, but people order in pizzas and food from further afield as well.

    were those people not able to order that takeaway food in, and its far more varied and in far bigger numbers than any pub should dare to try and put on themselves, theyd undoubtedly have headed into the town/city centres for food, and then the pub loses the custom.

  12. Hmm.

    Reminds me of what many pub denizens and publicans said about the smoking ban in 2007: 'No problem, owners can serve more and better food in a smoke-free atmosphere.'

    Yes, the 'gastro' pub. (In French, 'gastro' denotes an illness of the GI tract.)

    And now, the allergen law strikes.

    What next?


  13. The 'dry' curry house next to the Coopers' Tavern in Burton let's you bring in your beers from next door. Perfect - curry and proper beer. Derby Tup in Chesterfield has the perfect combination for match days - excellent beers and sends you off for baps from the take away a few doors down.


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