Pubs in the West Midlands can beat the credit crunch by following an example set by drinkers in a Norfolk village, the regional secretary of the British Beer and Pub Association said.
Richard Matthews said the region’s watering holes could easily “diversify” to battle a decline in sales after a bartering scheme was unveiled at The Pigs Pub in Edgefield, near Holt.
The pub encourages locals to contribute to its traditional food menu by handing over items of fresh fruit, fish, meat and vegetables in return for free booze.
The amount of pints, meals or vouchers offered are linked to the size, quantity and quality of the items presented and so far, pints have been swapped for a kilo of potatoes, three whole mackerel and a kilo of fresh fruit.
Locally-shot rabbits, pheasants and pigeons have also been exchanged for beer, while a sign placed inside the pub says: “If you grow, breed or shoot anything that may look at home on our menu, then bring it in and let’s do a deal.”
Cloe Wasey, the 24-year-old manager of The Pigs Pub said the bartering offer had taken off as people have started to feel the pinch financially. She said: “We’ve been doing it for almost two years now but the success of it has only just recently started to boom with the credit crunch setting in.
“It’s also great for us because we get produce at a good price, although we have high standards so the food we get in has to meet those. We find the home grown stuff is often much better than what we can get from the suppliers.
“When we get the good stuff, and it gets on to the specials board, it’s brilliant. Someone will say ‘that rabbit tasted great’ and we say ‘here, meet the person who shot it’.
“It’s also a challenge for the chef to make the most of the ingredients.”
Although Mr Matthews said that the scheme in Norfolk was not suited to all pubs in the West Midlands and would be difficult to organise, he said it showed they needed to review the ways in which they attempted to attract punters.
He said: “It is an interesting one. Good luck to those who are doing it but it would really involve quite a good deal of organisation. I can’t see it catching on wholesale but it could certainly have its place in rural areas.
“There is nothing similar in the West Midlands but a number of businesses are diversifying these days and putting in post offices and a lot of them are carrying shopping items and essential goods.
“It is clear that generally pub-going is in decline but there are some pubs doing very well.
“There is a pub in Quarry Bank called The Thorns Inn from the Marstons Pub Company, and they are doing absolutely fantastically well with food sales and entertainment.
“They open at 8am with an “All-you-can-eat” breakfast from £3.95 and they do something like 600 or 700 meals on a Sunday.
“When the smoking ban first came in, they said ‘let’s go for this market - there is a market out there’ so it has not been all doom and gloom.”
Other pubs in the region who have attempted to add more to their usual menus include the Hare and Hounds pub in Kings Heath High Street.
Not only does the pub allow punters to order food from various local takeaways, but it provides a knitting social event called “Stitches and Hos” on the last Tuesday of every month.
In Birmingham city centre, specialist real ale pub The Wellington presents a beer festival and allows customers to bring their own food.