Snacks and Light Bites

So you’ve kitted out your kitchen with all the heavy duty equipment you’re going to need, ranges, ovens, grills, fryers, griddles etc and that takes care of your main menu items. What about snacks and light bites? What if you haven’t got an all singing all dancing commercial kitchen and still want to offer food? What about all those late night customers who get a bit peckish towards closing time and fancy a snack or something to take away?

Here are some pub food ideas and suggestions on ways to compliment a full menu or offer a light bite menu.

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Potato Ovens

Jacket or baked potatoes have become a pub staple and a popular way of preparing and serving them is to have a counter-top potato oven which acts as a cooker, a holding cabinet and a merchandiser. Most are made using enamelled cast iron to give an “olde worlde” or Victorian appearance (think black and brass).

The cooking is done on racks using gas or electric convection (the latter is the most common). The holding drawer or cabinet capacity usually equals the cooking capacity, so an oven that can cook 20 potatoes in an hour has a holding space that can also take 20 potatoes to ensure a cooking and service cycle.

The normal way to operate them is for the first batch to go into the cooker 90 minutes before service commences, these are stored for sale and a fresh batch loaded into the oven (if required). If demand is high, extra potatoes can be cooked in your main kitchen in the oven and then put in the holding space while the potatoes in the oven are cooking.

An additional feature that is available is to have the oven with a bain marie to hold toppings such as baked beans or curry sauce or a refrigerated bain marie for holding grated cheese and coleslaw.

Soup Kettle

Large pot-bellied soup kettles are a form of bain-marie that you can have on a carvery, hot buffet line or counter top and can be used for soups, chilli, stews, curries etc (I’ve even used them for keeping mulled wine hot at winter events) product is easily served by front of house staff. Product can be cooked in your main kitchen and then decanted into the kettle prior and during service. Again you can get them in various sizes and finishes


One of the most commonly used items of snack equipment and one of the most heavily used is the sliced bread toaster. For this reason alone buying anything other than commercial specification is a false economy. Commercial toasters are built to withstand prolonged heavy use with heavy-duty elements, spare parts are readily available and it will have the versatility to cook toasted sandwiches, a very lucrative sales opportunity.

If toasted sandwiches are on your menu, you can purchase toasters with an extra wide slot and a sandwich clamp for making toasted sandwiches or toasters with extra wide slots for toasting bread buns or crumpets or bagels. Look for a four-slot toaster where two slots are independently controlled, allowing minimum energy consumption. Commercial grade sandwich toasters like those you would use at home are also an effective and space saving option.

Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are ready cooked and come in ambient tins or tubs, but need heating. There are three ways of heating the sausages: on a roller grill, in a hot dog steamer or in hot water.

For smaller operations, such as pubs a combined bread and dog warmer (as a table-top, plug-in unit) would be the ideal choice. The sausages are heated in a vertical heated glass container surrounding four heated spikes. You cut off one end of a small baguette, spike it for a short while to heat the bread, then slide a hot sausage into the cavity made by the spike. For use with traditional finger rolls, an alternative bread warmer is a heated clamp. Both sausage warmers and bread warmers are available as separate units.

Hot Dogs are all the rage at the moment, click here for the definitive guide to Hot Dogs from the USA.


Another small space catering solution, pannini are Italian flat breads that you fill with various fillings (generally all have a cheese ingredient) that you toast/grill in a clamp style toaster. Powered from a normal electrical socket these specialist hot sandwich makers are ideal for the beginner and can provide a valuable snack solution throughout the day and the evening as bar staff can easily operate and serve from them. Many suppliers offer a starter pack with ready made product to off-set the initial capital cost.

With all hot food holding carried out in soup kettles, hot dog machines, potato ovens etc it is essential that you follow the guidelines on hot food handling as part of your HACCP regime


If all you can offer is sandwiches here’s some great ideas and here are The British Sandwich Association Top 10 Sandwich Fillings:

  1. BLT (Bacon, lettuce and tomato)
  2. Prawn mayonnaise
  3. Chicken and bacon
  4. Cheese and pickle
  5. Chicken Salad
  6. Cheese and onion
  7. Bacon
  8. Tuna and sweetcorn
  9. Egg mayonnaise
  10. Chicken and stuffing

‘101 Sandwiches: A Collection of the Finest Sandwich Recipes from Around the World’ by Helen Graves (Dog’n’Bone Books, £12.99) is a newly published book with enough ideas to keep any specials’ board fresh and interesting.

Mintel consumer research shows 27% of workers said they would be interested in trying different carriers such as pittas, wraps and flatbreads but have not yet done so. Pitta bread is very easy to make and home-made on your menu is always a good USP, click here for how to make pitta bread.


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