There has been a revolution in the independent restaurant scene of late – with eateries throwing off the shackles of lunch and dinner service to offer all-day dining, grab and go menus and even takeaway.
This has in part been driven by rising costs – as soaring rents and utilities make it increasingly difficult for independents to balance the books – but it is also a response to rising demand for more casual, all-day dining.
By extending their offer, restaurants can make sure they maximise potential revenue, as well as attracting a wider range of clientele, making them more resilient to economic changes and consumer whim.
Aware that not everyone has time for a lengthy lunch, Newman Street Tavern recently introduced a ‘Fast Food’ menu at its downstairs bar.
Now, diners with only an hour for lunch can enjoy a Galloway cheese burger or lobster salad roll with fries cooked to the same high standard as the food in the main restaurant.
“We want to make sure there are as many core revenue streams as possible for any given product. So if we have a side of Galloway beef we would serve prime cuts in the dining room, but we can use the rest to make burgers or beef sandwiches for people wanting a quicker meal in the bar,” operations director James McLean told BigHospitality.
The menu has been so successful that the pub is now looking to introduce a takeaway menu – giving people with even less time the chance to enjoy their food.
“We suddenly started to realise that our lobster rolls would be perfect for people to sit and enjoy outside or take away back to the office or to a local park,” said McLean. “We want to introduce a menu of picnic rolls with the middle scooped out to make room for different filings.”
The key to the whole thing, says McLean, is keeping the quality of the food consistent across all three offers. “We want to be a neighbourhood hub serving people quality food no matter how much time they have,” he said.
Simon Lee and Tim Wilson of Medcalf on Exmouth Market also spotted an opportunity in the lunchtime market – inspiring them to open a new project in the space adjacent to their restaurant which was previously an art gallery.
Medcalf Traiteur is serving simple lunch dishes cooked on a Big Green Egg BBQ, such as slow cooked pork belly, butterbean & chorizo stew, grilled salmon and marinated fennel and BBQ salt beef with sauerkraut.
“The lunch trade on Exmouth market has changed a lot and we saw it as a great opportunity to use a space that was previously a bit wasted,” explained Wilson.
“It is really all about maximising the space and making things a bit more interesting.”
In the evening, the venue is transformed into a wine bar serving old world wines by the bottle or carafe. Diners can order from the Medcalf menu or choose from a daily changing blackboard menu featuring charcuterie from Trealy Farm and Cannon & Cannon, Bread Peddlers bread, traditionally baked terrines, house made pickles and cheeses.
In the spirit of traditional traiteurs, for which events and catering were an integral part of business, the space is also available for private hire.
“I am really keen to develop more of an events business, and we really see this as the first step toward making that happen,” said Wilson.
Meanwhile, the owners of Hackney eatery LARDO are tapping into the burgeoning eat-at-home market with their new concept, LARDO bebè on Sandrignham Road.
The main focus of the new venture is takeaway – with home delivery also available- although there is small dining area for people who want to eat in.
“We wanted to offer our extended neighbours the opportunity to eat LARDO at home,” explained LARDO co-founder Eliza Flanagan. “Yes, bebè is also a lovely bar and restaurant but the take away and delivery is what makes it unique and the location was chosen specifically – It is 2km away from all the areas we wanted to serve.”
LARDO bebè has a bar area so people can enjoy a drink while they wait, and the 40-cover downstairs dining area will be available for private hire. In summer, the back garden will provide more space for alfresco eating.
“Finding a spot which is so suited to private dining was one of our goals since we can’t do very large groups at LARDO,” said Flanagan.
In Kent, Minnis Bar and Restaurant owner Jason Freeman is taking the takeaway model one step further with his latest venture, Curiously Kentish Delicatessen and Café.
The shop will sell its own salted, smoked, brined and pickled meats, fish and seafood as well as salads, deli accompaniments and sauces, as well as products from local artisan producers. The café will serve breakfast, lunch and snacks to eat in and ready meals to takeaway.
“We will have daily changing soups, a special ‘traiteur’ lunch dish of the day and will also be preparing ‘ready meals’ to take away and re-heat at home, which will be pre announced, to allow advanced meal planning,” said Freedman.
The venue will also host a supper club once a month - with Freedman and head chef Kevin Faux serving impromptu dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients.