Monday, 29 February 2016

"Roast beef on Sundays, all right!"

In something of a shock move, pub chain JD Wetherspoon have announced the scrapping of their traditional Sunday lunch roast dinners. According to press reports, the Sunday Club roast dinner section has already been removed from the company’s website, but today my local JDW outlet in Tonbridge, the Humphrey Bean, was still advertising Sunday roasts.

The pub chain announced the decision to drop the Sunday staple meal as customers opt for more "fashionable fare" such as Mexican food and curries. Wetherspoon’s will concentrate instead on pub classics such as fish and chips, pies and sausage and mash, alongside more contemporary offerings such as burgers, hot dogs, ribs and wraps. This will enable the company to focus on the range of items on its all-day, "core" menu.

There are around 950 Wetherspoon’s outlets in the UK, and the chain has sold roasts for the last 15 years; offering meal deals as low as £6.59, normally with an alcoholic drink thrown in. Many customers were disappointed to hear the news, but a spokesman for the company, which has food sales of around £800 million per year, insisted the decision, was not taken as a result of plummeting sales. Despite this, he confirmed that the last roast dinner will be served this coming Sunday March 6th, Mothering Sunday, as the firm “just don’t want to do it anymore”.

There is obviously more to this decision than this throw-away remark, with cost-cutting and streamlining of the whole operation the most likely reasons. As a number of commentators have pointed out, there is a problem associated with Sunday Roast of keeping the food at a perfect condition to be served, throughout the period of service which, in Wetherspoon’s case, can often be several hours.

Others have claimed that the chain recently changed over from carved freshly cooked joints to pre cooked and sliced packet meats which, although would have made a reasonable sandwich, are no good when it comes to a proper roast dinner. I have noticed the use of frozen roast potatoes, as well as frozen (and under-cooked) vegetables, and many have gone so far as to accuse the firm of “penny pinching".

In contrast, there is very little waste with the rest of the Wetherspoon’s menu as it's all “ring and ping”. Food is pre-cooked and then held for up to three days when it is popped in the microwave and warmed for service Place your order for a burger and 6 minutes later there it is!

I have eaten a number of Wetherspoon’s roasts over the years; although I doubt that number reached into double figures. Nevertheless, like many customers, I will be sorry to see this traditional Sunday staple disappear. I would imagine too that farmers and meat suppliers are also rather concerned by the axing of a dish which many people still regard as part of the traditional British Sunday.
"Roast beef on Sundays, all right". From the Kinks' 1967 Top Twenty Hit,. "Autumn Almanc"; a song which encapsulates many quintessential things about English life.

Images are from the JDW website.


Tyson said...

Paul, the potatoes and veg have always been frozen in Spoons, I'm afraid. The simple fact of declining sales across their estate must have been the deciding factor here. Each Spoons always had a certain figure they were expected to sell and, if like my local one, they didn't, then they were replaced by one of the other Clubs. In my local case, it was the Steak Club which did confuse people popping in for their 'traditional' roast!

Curmudgeon said...

I'm doubtful whether Sunday joints have ever been cooked on the premises and hand-carved in Wetherspoons. My guess is that they're frozen in plastic bags and then microwaved. The same with all the downmarket pubs advertising "Sunday Roast £5.99 - Beef, Lamb or Turkey".

Possibly the rise in genuine carveries has undermined Spoons' market.

lembo said...

I was a Wetherspoon manager for 5 years and in most pubs the roast consisted of:

Defrosted plastic packets of beef in gravy, microwaved
Pre-cooked chicken, cooked in combi oven
Portioned veg in bag with a disc of parsley butter, fridge temperature, to be steamed in microwave (just like you can buy in supermarkets)
Frozen roast potatoes, usually deep fried
Frozen stuffing balls, deep fried
Frozen Yorkshires, cooked in combi oven
Frozen plastic packets of gravy, usually heated in pan of water

The posher ones (eg the unbranded Wetherspoon opposite Windsor castle) would attempt a better quality roast, certainly with freshly cooked and carved meat. I never saw frozen veg in any of the pubs. All of the kitchen staff hated Sundays.

Paul Bailey said...

I can fully appreciate Wetherspoon’s decision, especially given the logistical challenges involved with trying to serve roast dinners over such a lengthy period of time. There are also the cost implications as well plus, having read lembo’s comments, the undue pressure on the kitchen staff. What’s Timbo going to do with all those willow pattern plates though?