The London Inn, Horrabridge

The London Inn, Horrabridge

Landlord and business partners: Mike Huda and partner Heidi Lenderyou

Location: Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
The London Inn is situated in the village of Horrabridge, some 20 minutes from Plymouth. The village has two pubs and a fish and chip shop.

Co-owner Mike Huda, a Londoner with a background as a chef, has a fully equipped kitchen and offers a bistro menu, serving a wide variety of meals from slow-cooked lamb shanks up to beef and ale pie, all made using locally sourced Dartmoor beef, lamb and pork.

However, he noted from listening to regulars’ conversations that a significant number did not want to spend between £7.50 and £15 on a meal in his hostelry, and he noted that the chippy next door was doing very brisk business.

Spotting this opportunity he decided to dip a toe in the water and try the Big Al’s Flamecooked Range – and the result has been a spectacular success, with as many as 300 burgers being sold in a week, meaning a gross profit of around £600 when selling the optimum number.

The Big Al’s Flame Cooked Range of frozen, pre-cooked beef burgers, chicken grills and BBQ pork ribsteaks provides a quality but convenient menu option that’s ideal for establishments which don’t have kitchen facilities, the need or budget to employ full time chefs or those that want to boost their menu with little effort – all you need is a microwave and staff who know how to use one! As Mike himself puts it:

“Anybody not selling the Big Al’s range, if they have a high street pub or are located in an area with high footfall, are definitely missing a trick.”

Mike decided to dress the basic Big Al’s product up a little, and sells the burgers under his own-brand banner ‘Cheap As Chips’, presenting the beef burgers as cheeseburgers, the flame grill chicken burgers with salad and mayonnaise and ribsteaks on a bun with salad garnish and a barbecue sauce, plus a portion of chips, in a disposable semi-plastic container. The price of £3.50 applies whether eating on or off the premises.

London born-and-bred Mike explained: “I decided on the semi-plastic container because the customers eats the meal out of the tray, which saves on washing up and the costs involved in paying for a washer-up.

“Even factoring in the cost of the container, which you can buy from any food supplier or cash and carry, the salad garnish, the cheese, the mayo and the barbecue sauce, plus burger buns, I still come out of any sale with a gross profit of £2 per unit.

“Best of all, because these burgers are pre-cooked and then you just microwave them for a minute to heat them through, you only need one person on duty with a hygiene certificate, they don’t have to be trained in cooking or have cookery qualifications.”

Mike opens seven days a week from noon until 11pm and the Big Al’s range is available throughout his opening hours.

Customers have remarked to him on how much they love the taste and he said: “At first when they were suggested to me at a Punch Taverns presentation I dismissed them, preferring to make my own hand-crafted burgers.

“But I decided to give them a go a couple of months later and I haven’t looked back. I will continue to sell them and rather than really push them by advertising in a mailing campaign or through the local press, I decided to let them find their own level and sales of between 50 to 300 per week tells its own story.

“There is also the additional boost to the wet sales side, because drinkers who come in and stay for a couple of rounds on their way home from work, quite often order one of my burger meals to plug the hunger gap before dinner!”

Another trend that Mike has noticed is that the flame grill-flavoured chicken burgers seem to go down extremely well with youngsters under 18, who he allows to eat in his pub and have a soft drink.

“Moreover, customers of all ages really enjoy the flame grilled taste of Big Al’s, this is the taste that they want. It’s been a huge success story and one I’m happy to share with, and recommend to, other licensees.”