Kitchen Refurbishment: How to pick the right klt

Related tags Food Microwave oven Oven

Driving revenue from food is widely seen as a way for pubs to offset probable losses of wet sales following the introduction of the smoking ban.While...

Driving revenue from food is widely seen as a way for pubs to offset probable losses of wet sales following the introduction of the smoking ban.

While this sounds an easy step forward for pubs that have until now typically enjoyed wet sales well ahead of food sales, it is not that simple. Breaking into the pub food market or cranking up existing food sales overnight is not easy. There is currently no shortage of pubs to visit for food and competition is high.

As more pubs ramp up their emphasis on food, it increases the choice and availability of places to eat, but not necessarily the overall customer volume. The prospect of availability increasing faster than demand could see some pubs face the double whammy of a fall in wet sales and no corresponding increase in food sales.

The first rule of upgrading the food offer for a pub is to recognise the potential market and not

try to cater for a customer base that does not exist. There are three basic customer groupings for pub food:

  • The community pub offering cheap and comforting food
  • The rural pub offering a mix of convenience food and fresh food
  • The food-led house offering made-from-scratch food at smart restaurant prices, but in a pub setting.

Community pubs in town and city centres benefit from regular custom for food because of the convenience of location and the attractive menu prices and meal deals. This is often lunchtime business from workers, shoppers and, in the right location, tourists, which will tend to dry up after early evening.

Each pub operator has to make the decision on which food route the pub should follow, and the kitchen equipment needed to produce the food in each of these pub food categories differs.

There is no need to buy more equipment than a cheap and cheerful menu and its prices need, just as there is a necessity to invest if the pub wants to go down the fresh food route.

Whatever equipment is chosen, it has to be of a commercial specification, not domestic. There are financial, performance and food safety reasons why this is important. Domestic equipment is built to withstand light duty in the home, not the hard work of a pub kitchen.

This shows itself sharply in two items of equipment that are present in every pub kitchen - the fridge and the microwave oven.

The motor that drives a domestic fridge and keeps the food cool is only sufficiently powerful to cope with the number of times a day a domestic fridge door is opened, which is not many compared with a fridge in a pub kitchen.

A domestic fridge in a pub kitchen is opened and closed so many times that the cold air is constantly getting out, to be replaced by warm air from the kitchen. The result of that is the food temperature may rise above that which is safe.

Domestic microwave ovens and commercial microwave ovens might look similar in shape and size, but there are huge differences in build quality and performance. One of the biggest differences is that many commercial microwave ovens have two internal power sources showering the food with microwaves, rather than the single microwave source in most domestic microwave ovens.

Two microwave sources mean quicker and more even heating, with much less chance of cold spots and hot spots in the food.

Even heating throughout is hugely important for food safety reasons when re-heating frozen or chilled food in a microwave oven. If there are food poisoning bugs lurking in the food, thorough heating should kill them. If the microwave oven leaves some parts of the dish cool rather than hot, then there is the risk that any bugs present will not have been killed.

There is one other very good reason to buy commercial microwave ovens rather than domestic ones - most commercial microwaves don't 'ping' at the end of the heating cycle and betray to the pub customer how the food is being prepared.

Fryers are another basic item of the pub kitchen. The challenge is to match the size and power of the fryer to the output needs of the kitchen. There are some tricks to achieving this match.

Look at the proportion of fried food on the menu against peak demand times. The fryer needs to be able to meet the quantity of the peak demand time, probably lunchtime for many pubs.

Lunch for community pubs is often a quick meal, so if the fryers cannot get the food out quickly onto plates the customers are going to be unhappy. A good supplier should be able to work out the fryer size and power needed for a pub according to current and forecast food sales.

No kitchen can function properly without a cooking range with an oven underneath. This is one of the most versatile items of kitchen equipment. There is almost nothing that cannot be cooked on it or in it. The standard format is a six-burner top - either gas or electric - with an oven underneath.

The other option is a solid-top stove, where there is a heavy metal plate on the top of the range on which pans can be slid about to hot parts and cool parts. The pan capacity of solid-tops is greater than that of single-burner stoves, but it is harder to control energy costs for single-pan use.

Equipment that makes the difference

Top of this list is the combi-steam oven. Not to be confused with the combi-microwave oven, the combi-steam oven is a glass-fronted convection oven that can inject steam into the oven cavity. This gives far more flexibility than a conventional oven under the cooking range.

Steam is a huge asset when roasting meat. Up to a third of the weight of a piece of raw meat can be lost in the cooking process through drying out, so affecting profitability. A small amount of steam in the oven replaces moisture lost through roasting so there is very little weight loss. Small amounts of steam also help in tenderising meat.

All combi-ovens cook very evenly, so it does not matter which shelf food is placed on. The oven can be filled to capacity and all food will come out cooked the same. All combi-steam ovens have programming facilities - some more advanced than others - which can give cooking consistency of food.

A char-grill adds freshness and taste to the pub menu. It is still possible to get lava rock char-grills, but manufacturers are increasingly looking to metal radiants, as they are easier to clean and give a more consistent grilling area, and heat-up time is very quick. Features to look for are split power sources (so that only half the grill is being heated at quiet service times) and variable height grill bars.

Where there are a lot of fresh vegetables and salads on the menu, a food processor is very useful for slicing, dicing and chopping. The processor is also able to purée soups and sauces.

Hot beverages are the most profitable item a pub can sell and sales will always benefit from quality tea and coffee. An espresso machine produces the best range of coffees, but at a much simpler level there are pour-and-serve percolator systems and automatic pod systems that use freeze dried coffee as the base.

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