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What is a Carvery?

Learn about the history of and how to start a carvery, as well as what kind of food one usually offers.

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A carvery is a type of restaurant where cooked meat is freshly carved to order for customers. Learn about the history of and how to start a carvery, as well as what kind of food one usually offers.

What is a carvery?

carvery refers to a restaurant that primarily sells a selection of different meats that can be carved fresh to order or served buffet style. A carvery is usually inside a pub or hotel and opens for service on the weekends. Whether it is served buffet style or as a seated meal, a carvery usually offers cooked meat that is carved as requested by the customer.

What is the history of the carvery?

The term ‘carvery’ was first used in the 1950s in England. In London, two Lyons Corner Houses had a restaurant within them, referred to as a carvery due to there being a table where a waitress would help customers who had trouble carving their meat. These customers were charged five shillings to have their meat carved as requested, therefore resulting in the first carvery business. 

By the 1970s, more carveries appeared in hotels and restaurants across London and then became a staple in pubs. In the United States, a carvery is often present at a buffet restaurant where there is what is more commonly known as a “carving station,” at which an employee carves meat pieces for customers to their liking.

What is typically on the menu at a carvery?

The main item sold at a carvery is meat, though some also include fish. Typically, a carvery offers a simple food menu with no frills. A carvery generally offers meat sliced fresh to order, along with side dishes, such as potatoes, vegetables, and gravy. 

Most meat types served at a carvery include pork, lamb, or beef roasts and some seafood options. Some other traditional items seen on the menu at a British carvery include vegetables such as parsnips, peas, and carrots. It is not common, but some carveries may offer a sandwich made with thick carved pieces of meat.

How do you start a carvery?

A carvery is essentially a small restaurant concept inside a pub or hotel, so to start one, you will first need to write a business plan. Other steps include finding a location, securing financing, and designing your food menu. You will also need to obtain a health department permit, a food handler’s license, and a food sales permit, among other steps. 

Some carveries may also exist in a food hall, so that could be another possible location for you to start a carvery. And, of course, since the main purpose of a carvery is to carve meat, to start one, you will need to find a good meat dealer to source premium roasts. 

How much does it cost to start a carvery?

Since a carvery would be considered a smaller restaurant, the start-up costs could range from as little as $175,000 to well over $700,000. Remember that the average price per square foot is between $100 and $800, with the median at $450. 

Depending on your space and setup, you may need to lease the kitchen space of the restaurant or hotel you start your carvery in, or you will have to rent or lease a commercial kitchen space. Therefore, the start-up costs of a carvery will vary greatly depending on where you locate the business.

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