REGIONAL bars are yet to catch up with demands from vegans, vegetarians and those intolerant to gluten for more meal choices, publicans have been told.
Pub owners should now emulate businesses like Botanical Gardens Hotel Bendigo, where one in four meals can be easily modified for people with different dietary needs, PFD Food Services' Nick Thurlbeck says.
"In regional Victoria it is something the industry is working towards," he said.
"I don't think regional pubs 'lag behind', but it's fair to say that inner-city Melbourne will lead trends because there is a much wider market of establishments with cuisines not able to be offered in regional areas.
"And demographics are different in regional areas."
Mr Thurlbeck's comments came at an Australian Hotels Association Victoria forum in Bendigo on Tuesday.
The regular forums give publicans and their senior staff a chance to talk to suppliers and others in the industry about trends and regulatory changes, AHA CEO Paddy O'Sullivan said.
The next big cuisine craze is Asian fusion, Mr Thurlbeck said.
"We are talking about anything you would find if you walked into a Japanese or Vietnamese-style restaurant - food that is inexpensive to put together and tastes great," he said.
"What we want to do is encourage Bendigo's publicans to ask themselves what the emerging trends are, or what their patrons would expect to see on the menu.
"They expect to see Asian fusion, pork ribs, vegan options, all those sorts of things."
Pubs do not need to have the best food going around, but they need to offer "compelling" meals that will get people through the door, Carlton & United Breweries' Bec Pearson said.
Craft beer is another trend that keeps raising momentum, she said.
But that market is so fragmented - and so many new brands are emerging every week - that wait staff now need to help patrons choose their tipple, Ms Pearson said.
"Not everyone (on staff) has to be an expert but they should know the basics. Publicans need to make sure their wait staff have tried all the beers. You can't recommend something if you don't know what it tastes like," she said.
"Staff also need to know how to pour good beer. You would send back a corked wine. It's the same with beer. If you are not getting a good beer, why would you drink it?"
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