Catering equipment

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Equipping a pub kitchen is a major expenditure - and it is essential to ensure the equipment you buy can do the job you need it to and has adequate...

Equipping a pub kitchen is a major expenditure - and it is essential to ensure the equipment you buy can do the job you need it to and has adequate service cover.

Once you've paid for your pub, and then shelled out for any necessary redecoration and refurbishment, the next biggest area of expenditure is likely to be the kitchen.

Professional catering equipment doesn't usually come cheap - and if it does, then the chances are you're going to have problems with performance or servicing somewhere down the line.

Advice is something you won't be short of with the major equipment suppliers, as well as local dealers, all competing for your money. The important thing is to try and separate genuine sound advice from the sales pitch, as well as real information about performance and features from the PR spin.

Good general advice is to select a familiar brand from a reputable supplier, and to ensure that you take into account issues such as service cover. If possible, ask to speak to other publicans or similar businesses which are already using the model.

This feature aims to provide you with the relevant information you need in a number of key equipment areas.

Glass and Dishwashers

  • Identify the exact use for the equipment and calculate its maximum workload. This will ensure that the right model and size is selected, and that it will be able to cope during the busiest times of operation.
  • In a busy kitchen it is unrealistic to expect the machine to perform at the optimum levels described in the brochure. Build in an inefficiency factor of 30 per cent to allow for general peaks and troughs of the business.
  • Identify those features which are most relevant to your needs:
    • is extraction required?
    • what heat recovery options are available?
    • how good is the filter system?
    • can I double rack?
    • how low are the running costs?
  • Go for simplicity of operation. This will save time and money on training new staff.
  • Ask about on-site training, and choose a washer where staff training is part of the installation package.
  • Is the operator manual easy to understand, and could your staff use it to check whether a breakdown is operator error or needs an engineer?
  • Look for simplicity of construction for cleaning and maintenance purposes.
  • Ensure water treatment is part of the overall package to reduce service requirements and improve results.
  • Buy a machine that can provide consistent results with low running costs.

Fridges

Pub kitchens, especially in older buildings, tend to be smaller and often more awkwardly located than most professional kitchens. The restrictions imposed by the shape and size of your kitchen need to be considered when buying any large piece of equipment. With upright fridge cabinets you need to find a supplier offering a choice of heights and depths to suit different spaces.

  • In a busy kitchen, the fridge you choose should operate effectively no matter how many times the door is opened and closed, for example by using forced air systems.
  • Fridges should be durable enough to successfully withstand the rigors of operation in a hardworking kitchen.
  • In light of proposed "energy taxes" such as the Climate Change Levy, ask what steps manufacturers and suppliers of fridges are taking to alleviate the impact.

Fryers

  • Choose a fryer with a capacity at least 10 per cent greater than your current needs to allow for business expansion.
  • Look for a model with good recovery times - the fryer can often be the busiest piece of equipment in the kitchen, and delays will create a bottleneck across the whole menu.
  • Accurate controls ensure that the thermostat keeps the temperature of the oil as close to the setting as possible. If temperature swing is too great either up or down then you simply will not get consistent results.
  • For economy, high output fryers should be gas powered.
  • For durability, all external surfaces and the fry tank should be stainless steel.
  • A well-fitting lid stops dust from dropping into the oil, and keeping the oil covered when the fryer is not in use will also prolong its life.

Combi ovens

Combi ovens, which combine several cooking methods, such as steaming, roasting and grilling in a single unit, have become widespread throughout the catering industry in recent years. One of the main benefits of combi steaming is less food shrinkage while cooking, helping to ensure you get value from ingredients.

Major features to look for in a combi oven include:

  • Climate Control. Ovens which can monitor and adjust the moisture and heat levels while cooking ensure perfect results.
  • Temperature. The oven should be capable of pre-heating to 300 degrees Celsius, to ensure that temperature recovery is fast when food is introduced for cooking.
  • Programmability and ease of use. Making combi ovens as easy to use as possible has been a "Holy Grail" for manufacturers. A combi oven should be programmable, so that any member of staff can simply press a button to recreate a recipe.

Buying and servicing catering equipment

General questions to ask any prospective equipment supplier.

Technical considerations

What is the likely lifetime cost of the equipment - how much over the purchase prices will it cost to own and maintain it properly? How long will it last?

Can the product match competitive products' performance in terms of its potential to, say, reduce energy bills?

What is its capacity? How much product can it comfortably handle?

What industry standards does it meet? If a product is not CE marked, it's illegal.

How easy is it to use? Electronic controls, for example, minimise the potential for manual error.

Is it approved by a reputable industry body?

How fast does it work? Check potential time consuming factors such as how long it takes to heat up, temperature recovery times and how long it takes to clean.

Service questions

How much upfront advice and consultancy time are you willing to provide? Will this cost me anything?

Is the supplier a member of a reputable industry association, e.g. CESA or EFEDA?

What experience does it have in my sector? Does it have customers in a similar business line to ours that we can talk to?

What after-sales service can we expect, both technically and operationally?

Will we get full operator training, or just be left with a manual? What warranty periods and maintenance support are on offer?

If the worst happens, how fast can spares be provided - and a mechanic to fit them? Is this service offered seven days a week?

Is there a technical help desk? Problems that can be handled over the phone will avoid the cost of an engineer's visit.

Can the supplier provide a planned preventative maintenance programme? Like with a car, regular servicing and planned maintenance is proven to reduceproblems and save costs in the long term.

Does the supplier keep records of its ability to meet service standards? Can we see them? What service quality controls does it have in place?

Further information

Information used in compiling this feature was provided by the following companies:

Classic Glass & Dishwashing Systems:

01889 272300

Foster Refrigerator:

01553 691122

Hobart:

07002 101101

Olympic Catering:

01245 265355

Rational:

01582 480388

ServEquip:

020 8686 8855

Williams Refrigeration:

Related topics: Equipment

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