British restaurants will this year be in with a chance of bagging a portion of the Burns night market, as the Scots celebrate the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns, their most beloved poet’s birth.
While Scottish restaurants offering a traditional Burns night supper this January 25 are expecting to be busy, restaurants all over England, Wales and Northern Ireland should take the landmark opportunity to secure their share in trade.
Boisdale at Belgravia is one Scottish restaurant planning a traditional Scottish fare, with the recital of An Ode to a Haggis, a piper in full Highland regalia, live music and a range of Burns night dishes.
Albannach at Trafalgar Square is also intending going to town on the celebrations, with a packed schedule of entertainment, food and drink that has almost filled up already.
“Our previous Burns nights have all been successful, but more of a dinner and dance affair. This year we’ve made it quite modern and incorporated what’s going on in London,” said Albannach marketing manager Neil Preston. “With it being the 250th anniversary we thought we’d make a big song and dance about it.”
A traditionally Scottish six-course menu with an extra four dishes and matching wines and whiskies will be the highlight of the evening, with entertainment appearing in the form of a live Celtic band and ceilidh dancing. A collection of rare Scottish whiskies will also be on show in a silent auction, courtesy of Glenlivet.
However, London or even British restaurants and pubs needn’t break the bank by buying expensive haggis and alcohol in order to enjoy a Burns night success. Preston believes most non-Scottish restaurants and pubs won’t be doing anything for the evening, meaning they can take advantage of the lack of competition.
With a little marketing and tweaking to your existing food and drink menu, restaurateurs and publicans can turn an otherwise dreary January weekend into a lively profit-boosting celebration.
Burns Night celebration tips
Specials. Add a few traditional Scottish dishes to your specials board, or create a one-off Burns night set menu. Ingredients for most Scottish dishes like cockaleekie soup, neets, tatties, salmon and kippers can all be ordered from your current supplier, and as the basics for these dishes consist of potatoes, turnips and leeks which are cheap and in season, the profit margin is potential huge.
Haggis. Available from most good butchers all-year-round, including Chadwicks and Aubrey Allen who even have two vegetarian options. Even if you can’t find haggis in your area, make one yourself with Tom Kitchins recipe below. Also, try serving as a bar snack/ starter as a small taster to tempt your inquisitive yet squeamish customers.
Whisky. Burns night is a perfect opportunity to upsell your existing Scottish whiskies. Run an incentive-based competition between bar staff to maximise sales, or contact your supplier to obtain the Famous Grouse Burns night promotional kit, which includes complimentary scratch cards that offer the chance to win some great Burns night prizes. You can also try matching whiskies to your Burns night special dishes, creating exclusive Burns night cocktails, and enticing freezing customers in with Hot Toddies (Whisky, lemon juice and sugar), Scotland’s sweet but naughty answer to Beechams.
Ambience. It is widely known that the choice of music playing in a restaurant influences a customers purchases, so buy an old Celtic CD from a charity shop and get customers in the mood to celebrate all things Scottish.
Marketing. Get the Burns night message out there, let all British people know when it is and what will be happening. Use chalkboards, flyers, table talkers and make sure every member of staff is aware of the promotion so they are well-equipped to upsell.
Cook. Two of Scotland’s talented chefs have given us their own easy and cheap recipes for traditional Burns night dishes: