THE EVOLUTION OF PUB FOOD

The New Zealand pub scene owes a lot to its British influence, but the British themselves owe a lot to their own external forces. The Romans were the first to bring the idea of a pub to Britain, with their invasion of Britain in 43AD, they brought with them wine shops that were set up along roads. As time progressed, roadside watering holes became more common.

By the 18th century, with broader horizons for travelling throughout Britain available, the inn, and its ability to serve food became mainstream. Places that could offer refreshing beverages, a meal and a place to stay took off. The19th century saw the arrival of the fish and chip shop which was to have flow-on effects into pub culture. Additionally, were people who would make a living selling snacks outside and in public places. This is perhaps the foundation for the introduction of bar snacks, as anything that could be sold in the street and didn’t require cutlery was probably consumed in pubs.

Throughout the 20th century, the modern-day pub began to take shape. World Wars I and II impacted the amount of food available in pubs, as well as changing restrictions on hours of business. The 50s and 60s saw the introduction of American burger bars thanks to US soldiers who were based in New Zealand during the war. Not only were burgers becoming commonplace, but the increase in immigration of migrants from China and India would also to lead to more culinary diversity. Additionally, throughout the latter half of the 20th Century as technology improved and more modern and reliable ways of refrigeration and cooking became standard, the ability to produce more food of a better quality transformed the norm for pubs.

Pubs began to be more and more food focussed. The gastropub arrived in the 90s, and with it, another improvement to the quality of food served. Law changes gave pubs the freedom to be open all day, even on Sundays. This paved the way for the iconic Sunday roast.

At the turn of the century, pubs began to diversify. Not only was there a demand for a broader range of food, but the rising costs also impacted the freedom pubs had with their food. The early 2000s also saw the introduction of the pub breakfast. Insight agency MCA found that pubs now account for more than 11 percent of all breakfasts sold in the out-of-home food market.

Throughout this time, the pub changed once more. The smoking ban changed the demographics of pub-goers—pubs could appeal to a more family-oriented market. Not only this, but the demand for food had changed again. People began valuing health and nutrition more so than before, and a pub that couldn’t provide a sufficient range of options fell behind. With pubs becoming increasingly family friendly, bigger groups were pouring into pubs for substantial meals. Pubs could offer something that restaurants couldn’t always match—longer opening hours, and an emphasis on value for money. At the end of the day, consumers were still keen on comfort food cooked at their local spot.

In 2019 the classics remain—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pub that doesn’t serve some sort of burger and a fish and chips meal—but there will also be a range of other options. Vegan and vegetarian dishes have seen a surge in the last few years. Burgers, curries, and other fusion meals are now seen as pub staples. Pubs have come a long way from roadside refreshment stands to the modern-day gastro-destinations they are.