National BBQ week is the ideal time to host an event to officially open your pub's garden and launch the al fresco season at your pub. But with a wide variety of dietary preferences and food choices now demanded by customers, your barbecues this summer need to be imaginative.

Cook your own BBQs

Licensee Clive Redfern of the Turf Inn, Exeter, has been offering 'Cook Your Own BBQs' at the pub for the past 28 years, with around 200 barbecues hosted, from the beginning of June to the middle of September, on the pub's two decks which feature professional Australian gas barbecues.

A £50 deposit is taken for barbecue bookings and customers pre-order their food from a range of menu packages. Extras such as salads are offered per person for £3 or £25 for a large bowl.

Clive says: "We light the barbecues and get all the food, aprons, recyclable plates and food laid out and make it all look really nice. There is lots of preparation involved so we don't tend to do more than 2/3 bookings a day. People love it."

 

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Pre-booked BBQ buffets

James Linder, licensee of The Eagle, in Norwich runs a successful 'Book a BBQ' concept offering pre-booked parties for 20 to 150 people.

James says: "The barbecues open the pub up to a whole new audience. We do a £12 per head set menu. We had a barbecue booking every night last July. It is great incremental business. Only doing pre-bookings removes risk of wastage and weather issues and helps us ensure we reflect the great quality of our food offer across our barbecue food too."

He adds: "Great communication with customers prior to the event is key so you give them exactly what you are looking for and manage expectations. Try and be flexible with your offer but stick to your guns and don't compromise on quality."

Leeds Brewery's Lamb and Flag pub in Leeds also offers barbecue buffets, hosting around 25 last summer and catering for up to 100 people for anything from birthday and engagement parties to business meetings.

The pub offers two buffet menus, a £12.95 or £14.95 option with dishes including mini burgers, mini hot dogs, mac and cheese balls, ribs and vegetable kebabs.

 

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Weekend grilling

Barbecues also run every Friday and Saturday night at the Lamb and Flag on good summer evenings, with around 50 held last summer, including private barbecue parties. Menu options included cheese burgers, foot long hot dogs, chicken kebabs and lamb koftas.

The World Cup proved big barbecue business for the venue, with around 100 covers served at key games and the pub's manager Tom Lancaster is hoping to replicate this success during Glastonbury when the pub will be screening coverage and during the UEFA European Championships next year. 

Tom says: "For a barbecue to be successful make sure you sell the area and that it looks good. We have nice trellis, signs and quality tables. Also ensure your chef looks smart."