Monday 26 February 2024

Food in 1970s pubs

Rising living standards after WW II led to an increased demand for food in pubs. Though the form that food took varied considerably. From cold snacks to full meals.

In 1970, the head of Watney Mann’s catering department, Mr. F. MacPhillips, identified four different categories of pub food:

1.    Full meals.
2.    Speciality restaurants, such as steak or fish.
3.    Warm snacks.
4.    Cold snacks. 

The latter two of these categories being the most common.

Brewers were in an odd position when it came to food. In tenanted houses, they had no direct financial interest in the catering. As it was run purely by the tenant. However, knowing that the provision of food encouraged custom, and hence beer sales. So, food did benefit brewers indirectly. In managed houses, however, the catering was run by the brewery, as was everything else.

Customers weren’t totally satisfied with pub meals. Especially the prices. This punter had some harsh words on the subject:

But some of the prices charged are really monstrous. Publicans obviously use this side of their trade to pay for their holidays or the wife's new fur coat. They seem to push the prices to their limit, like they do with foreign lagers. And when they do attempt to keep the price down either the meals shrink or the plates get bigger something happens to the size of the portions anyway.
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, May 1970, page 56.

Another complaint was that, as most urban pubs concentrated on serving food at lunchtime, in the evenings everything had been reheated. Insufficient seating meant meals and snacks often had to consumed in crowded conditions or even standing up.


Matt said...

"In managed houses, however, the catering was run by the brewery, as was everything else."

Sam Smith's really exemplify that approach. Not only are all the beers and other drinks in their pubs own brand but so are the crisps and the pies, from a company Humphrey has his finger in.

bigLurch Habercom said...

Dont get me started on this one.

It used to be pubs that sold a bit of food, now it seems to be restaurants that sell beer.

Ive told the story before but i remember my local as a late teenager the pub in the village being refurbished and on opening night being asked if we wanted to see the menu before we sat down and saying to the door person that we were only comming for a drink and the person going "er o.......K and saying that we might not get a table and me saying thats ok we can saty at the bar to be told theres no standing at the bar.

Anonymous said...

For present day pubs that are old enough to have been open back then, has the food gotten better?

Anonymous said...

My local serves toasted sandwiches with Heinz English mustard mustard as an option lovely.

Bribie G said...

Two cheese and onion rolls and two pints of Hancock's HB, perfect lunchtime meal when I worked in the civil service in the early 70s.

Anonymous said...

I've mentioned the pub paintings of Ruskin Spear before Ron but there's a cracker just called 'Watneys Red' to go with the theme of todays post - Google search will pull it up. His other pub paintings are worth seeking out too.

petalia paul said...

It used to be pubs that sold a bit of food, now it seems to be restaurants that sell beer.

yep the beginning of the end for proper pubs.
If you want food go to a restaurant.

Anonymous said...

More Ruskin Spear - there's a fine painting called 'Alf and the Canary (Brown Ale)' which as part of the scene has (I think) one of those glass cabinets with shelves for food that were always on the bar back in the day. Painting is from 1949 but could easily be the 70's. Looks like cheese sandwiches to me. Article here shows the painting -