The focus on doing a Christmas roast menu can often mean pubs miss another obvious opportunity: festive bar snacks.


James Scott, who is the executive chef for the multi-award-winning New World Trading Company, has a few tricks up his sleeve that can help you create a great festive snacks menu.

James stresses it is a good idea to get ahead of the game and plan your pub's festive snacks early. He says: "We find customers are making enquiries for Christmas parties a lot earlier than previous years, so it makes sense to be ready.

"The process all begins as soon as one Christmas ends and we start collecting feedback in preparation for the following year. This way it is still fresh in our minds and we start getting some ideas andinspiration down on paper around January/February."





Simple snacks

If you keep things simple and use a template similar to your existing snacks menu you can avoid making too much extra work for yourself.

"The price points for the Christmas nibbles are based on our current menu price points for bar snacks," James continues, "just with a festive theme. The key is to make them affordable to guests.

"We used our normal suppliers — we asked them if they had any ideas for the nibbles. Christmas pudding sausage meat was intriguing to us, so we played around with it and decided to do it as a sausage roll."

So when he sat down to put together the Christmas snack menu, where did he start?

"We haven't previously done a Christmas nibbles menu," James says, "so we wanted to have a bit of fun with it. If you are in the bar having a drink rather than a sit-down meal, these are the perfect Christmas-themed snack for that.

"We took this as our focus, alongside the wider feedback we received on Christmas, what has worked in the past and what we believe guests want."




Getting the look

Presentation of snacks is central to their success and for delivering the wow factor for people — although practicality plays a part as well.

James says: "The dishes are presented in small cast iron pots — they are the perfect size for nibbles and are robust enough for the wear and tear of a busy period."

Another vital element is to make sure the new menu does not have a negative impact on the back-of-house team.

"It will mean a little extra work for the kitchen team," James says, "but we use some of the ingredients or recipes in the main menu anyway.

"Training will be given to the chefs and general managers over November to ensure it is fresh in their minds and they will get to sit down and have a pre-Christmas meal where they will be served the menu and nibbles to get them into the festive spirit," he adds.

And do not forget to push the menu out to your customers when you are ready to share it — after all, you will need to drive footfall to make it a success.

New World's festive menu will be presented to local punters before being rolled out across the company's pubs.

James continues: "We will also be including it in our email marketing, point-of-sale and shared with members of our new loyalty scheme 'My New World'.

"Once we get in the festive period, these will also form a key part of our Christmas and social media campaigns."

Meet your match




It pays to think about what beers you are going to match with the snacks too, says, Jonathan Lloyd from pub company JW Lees, which also produces a special festive snacks menu.

"We serve our Christmas snack collection with a pint of our Plum Pudding Christmas Ale. Plum Pudding is so popular we even have Plum Pudding Day in around 50 of our pubs, when we celebrate the start of Christmas and this special cask ale," Jonathan says.

James agrees: "Menus are always created to complement the wider offering and this will be largely led on a local level, based on audience and local suppliers."

Both Jonathan and James have perhaps the quintessential festive snack for pubs — pigs in blankets — on their menus, which again is perfect to show off a pub's drinks menu and its condiments.

Jonathan says: "It is the top trump of all Christmas snacks. Ours is dipped into a Manchester Star Ale chutney. We've been making chutney out of our award-winning 7.5 per cent ABV ale for about five years — it pairs perfectly with sausage and bacon."