Learning from abroad: Pubs and bars

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Fluid Movement's latest London bar VOC has taken inspiration from abroad
Fluid Movement's latest London bar VOC has taken inspiration from abroad
As pubs and bars struggle to cope with alcohol tax rises and red tape, operators who want to do more than simply survive need to come up with new ideas to boost their business. In the third part of this month's feature we take a look at some of the bar and drink trends that are happening outside of the UK to bring some fresh thinking to the sector.

Molecular mixology:​ Spain

Molecular gastronomy is a term many of us are familar with when discussing the work of chefs, notably Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal, but now bars in Barcelona, not far from Adria's world class restaurant El Bulli, are applying the culinary techniques to cocktail-making. Mixologists are no strangers to using chemistry when concocting cocktails, but molecular mixology takes things a step further with its heavy lean on scientific techniques. Spherification, the process of shaping liquid into spheres to intensify the flavour of an ingredient, is used with spirits, while liquid nitrogen is used to create aromatic fogs, giving the customer a more sensory experience with the delivery of their drink. Just as molecular gastronomists deconstruct traditional dishes such as strawberries and cream, to again intensify the flavour of a dish, traditional cocktails are also deconstructed and put back together in different formats.

Will it work in the UK?

Tom Aske, of bartending consultancy Fluid Movement and the co-owner of London bar Purl and the newly-opened VOC, has already begun to use the technique in his London bars and is confident that molecular mixology can work. Heston Blumenthal, the UK's top molecular gastronomist, is also a household name, so drinkers with foodie knowledge are bound to understand and appreciate the concept. However, as with molecular gastronomy, bar owners wanting to add some molecular mixology to their drinks menu will need both the creative and physical space to be able to deliver it "We hold 52 litres of liquid nitrogen on site and you have to know what you're doing with it," says Aske.

Service with a smile: ​America and Australia

It would be churlish to suggest that a high service standard in bars, restaurants and hotels is a burgeoning 'trend' among our American and Australian cousins, but there's no denying that its an area where they consistently succeed while we fail. The results of a recent YouGov survey indicate that our service standards are still poor in the UK with three quarters of people surveyed saying they were not happy with the current standard, so it's an area we could take some inspiration from. Service is core to businesses in these regions, rather than coming secondary to the food and drink. Partly it's because staff earn more in tips, their main wage source, if they keep their customers happy, but partly because they are trained well. On research trips to San Francisco, for example, Drake & Morgan's operations manager Taskin Muzaffer, has seen how all staff, from a kitchen porter to a bartender or a head chef, are given service training and an insight into the business, which not only helps everyone deliver good service, but also makes staff feel valued.

Will it work in the UK?

There are moves by many companies to improve training for staff in bars and pubs across the UK. Drake & Morgan takes inspiration from the bars it's seen in the States and gives service training to all staff, but until bar work is perceived by the UK's workforce as a valuable career, or more than simply a stop-gap before going onto further education or another job, then it could be difficult to achieve across the industry: "There is still a stigma attached to working in a bar," says Muzaffer. "That doesn't exist in American, Australia or New Zealand because the hospitality industry there is taken more seriously."

Microbreweries: ​Germany

The quality of German beer has been of great importance to the country since its purity laws were introduced in 1516, but recently, notably in Berlin, there has been a growing emphasis on providing more 'home grown' produce in hospitality with microbreweries and beer pubs on the increase again. "Germany has a sense of history and connection to the past and there is a hark back to traditional values, but delivered in a modern way," says Lewis Allen of Portland Design. As a result, Germans are turning away from modern beer brands and looking for more niche beers that are often produced on-site where they can learn about what has gone into each one.

Will it work in the UK?

Interest in real ale and specialist beers over lager has grown in the UK over the past 10 years with beer appearing alongside wine as a valid accompaniment to food. The public is also growing more knowledgeable about ingredients and interested in the provenance of food and drink. The concept of producing beer on-site is a matter of space and money for a pub, but it could work.

Related news

Show more