What’s New for Pubs?

Innovations to Help You Prosper

There was a time when a pub’s customers were happy with a mug of domestic lager and a basket of something deep-fried. Not any more. Today’s consumer is savvy, with expectations elevated by travel, food television, and Instagram. That means a successful pub needs to stay on top of the latest food and drink trends – and invest in the latest equipment necessary to execute them well and economically. Here are a few ideas to consider for your own establishment.

Wine on Tap

British Columbians like their craft beer and artisan cocktails, but what they really love is wine. In 2014, wine sales in BC increased nearly 6% to 68.9 million litres and topped $1 billion for the first time, a 7% increase over the previous year, according to the BC Liquor Distribution Branch. And it seems we’re only going to keep drinking more and more wine: A February 2015 report released by the UK-based International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR) projected that Canadians will be drinking about 10% more wine by 2018.

It’s important to invest in a good system for serving wine by the glass.

That means it’s important to invest in a good system for serving wine by the glass. One increasingly popular option is wine on tap. In systems like the ones by FreshTAP (freshtap.com), wine is pumped from a keg using a neutral gas that forces the wine through the lines; it never comes in contact with oxygen, thereby reducing spoilage and preserving the quality and freshness of the wine. Taps reduce the costs and waste associated with bottles – including shipping, storing, recycling, and spoilage.

Another option is a customizable, easy-to-maintain modular system like the ones from By the Glass (bytheglasscanada.com). Simply put opened wine bottles into the temperature-controlled unit and an inert gas such as nitrogen or argon replaces any wine that is removed and preserves the rest. A press of a button releases the exact amount of wine you want to serve. There’s no waste and no loss through spoilage, so you’re always a perfect glass of wine.

Beer on Tap

Of course, beer is still the main attraction for most pub-goers, and for them, there are constant improvements to draught systems. One of the big trends right now is portable beer dispensers, such as the beer towers produced by companies like Canadian Beverage Supply (www.cdnbev.com). Beer towers allow guests to help themselves, adding to the social atmosphere at a table while reducing wait times for refills – and not inconsequentially – increasing profits for the bar. These are already popular in the US, parts of Asia and Australia, especially at sports bars and sporting events, and are slowly making their way to Canada.

BrewLock is designed so oxygen never comes in contact with the beer, keeping it as fresh and vibrant as the day it was brewed.

BrewLock is designed so oxygen never comes in contact with the beer, keeping it as fresh and vibrant as the day it was brewed.

The next new thing, though, might just be the new-to-Canada technology from Heineken – the BrewLock draught system (www.brewlock.ca). It’s considered by many to be the future of keg technology and has already won a Food and Beverage Innovation Award from the US National Restaurant Association. It’s a perfectly airtight system that offers a richer, fresher taste and perfect carbonation without CO².

The kegs themselves are much lighter and more sustainable (they’re made from food-safe recyclable plastic), and have a coupler that makes keg changes fast and easy. Most importantly, BrewLock is designed so oxygen never comes in contact with the beer, keeping it as fresh and vibrant as the day it was brewed.

Kitchen Meets Bar

When it comes to cocktails, today’s bartenders are adopting skills from the kitchen, using fresh, seasonal ingredients and culinary techniques more commonly associated with top chefs. No longer are a jigger and shaker enough for serious bartenders. Instead, they’re using centrifuges and sous-vide circulators, nitrogen-powered ice cream makers, high-tech carbonization systems, and even spun sugar machines like the ones from The Canadian Popcorn Company (www.popcornmachine.ca) for this year’s super-trendy crafty cotton candy (think Negroni- or Fernet-flavoured floss). If you plan on serving artisanal cocktails, invest accordingly.

Bar Meets Kitchen

The food a pub serves is as important as its drink selection, and wise owners will stay on top of food trends with a few smart additions to the kitchen.

Pizza and flatbreads, for instance, are always popular pub fare. If you don’t have a fire-safe outdoor setting for a wood-fired Forno Brava oven (outdoorpizzaovens.ca), you can easily install one of the multi-functional electric deck ovens from Italy’s Moretti Forni (www.morettiforni.ca) – they are available in a variety of sizes and styles that will fit any space. Another handy gadget is a panini press. Dozens of compact countertop styles are available from companies such as Hubert (www.hubert.ca), with either grooved or flat plates that allow you to make toasted sandwiches in seconds. Soft tacos are also trendy. While you may not want to go through the effort of making tortillas from scratch, consider investing in a proper tortilla steamer such as the versatile Super Shot by Nemco (www.nemcofoodequip.com), which not only heats tortillas, but also refreshes day-old baked goods.

Better Glassware

Nothing undermines your meticulous wine-by-the-glass or craft beer program than stubby, thick-lipped wineglasses and chunky old pint mugs. Brands such as Spiegelau (www.spiegelau.com) offer good quality, all-purpose wineglasses and a variety of beer glasses, which are essential for serious beer programs, as well as sexy cocktail glasses. Then keep those glasses shiny and clean with an upright glass washer.

Modern washers can fit right into the sink with no special hookups, and feature rotating brushes that scrub inside and outside the glasses.

Modern washers like the ones by Bar Maid (www.barmaidwashers.com) can fit right into the sink with no special hookups, and feature rotating brushes that scrub inside and outside the glasses for cleaner glassware, faster.

Nice Ice

Few things will ruin a cocktail or mixed drink faster than bad, brittle, too-warm, watery ice. Kold Draft machines are the industry standard for perfectly hard, cold cubes, but are prone to breaking down frequently and are expensive to repair. The next generation of ice makers, soon to enter the Canadian market, might just provide the solution. The Hoshizaki cuber (www.hoshizaki.com) produces super-cold, super-clear, super-reliable ice cubes.

Money Matters

Of course, running a pub isn’t just about serving great food and drink, but actually making money from it despite BC’s notoriously tight margins. One of the easiest ways to improve that end of the business is by going to a tablet. Tablets offer a whole range of convenient business solutions, from games to easy-to-update menus, inventory control, and the ability to take orders and pay right at the table. The key is not so much the gadget, but the software, and that’s where today’s high-tech point-of-sales systems come into play.

Barnet POS (barnetpos.com), for instance, is a cloud-based system that allows pubs and liquor stores to access information on live sales, inventory and receiving over the cloud, meaning it’s accessible any time, any place. It’s accessible on multiple platforms, including tablets, and a monthly fee covers everything from software and support to upgrades and till hardware.

CLR Concepts’ Clear POS (www.clearpos.com) comprises a suite of products for the hospitality industry that are designed to be user-friendly, whether that user is a server ringing in an order or a manager trying to stay on top of liquor inventory.

For decades, Sculpture Hospitality’s Bevinco bar inventory system has been an industry leader in monitoring sales, inventory and losses (www.sculpturehospitality.com). Now it has introduced Bevchek Inc., the first real-time, web-based draft beer control system in the hospitality industry. This system keeps tabs on every drop of beer by comparing sales data from POS terminals to pours measured by a flow meter. Since managers can keep track at all times over the Internet, they can follow trends while reducing thefts, improving accountability and increasing profits.