Make your pub kitchen work harder

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Profits are under constant pressure and evaluating your entire operation on a regular basis can improve operational efficiency, which will result in...

Profits are under constant pressure and evaluating your entire operation on a regular basis can improve operational efficiency, which will result in saving time, resource, money and speed to serve.

Catering equipment specialists from 3663 First for Foodservice recently spent time with Tim and Vanessa at the Rose and Crown to evaluate their kitchen's work flow and make recommendations on how the team can make small changes that will have the maximum positive impact on the business.

Use what you have to your advantage

Tim and Vanessa inherited their kitchen equipment when they took over the pub, and for the most part it has served them well. In the future they plan to extend both the restaurant and the kitchen building to provide more covers. The couple also plan to extend their current operation to include sustainable accommodation following a number of enquiries by customers.

When that happens, Tim will need a full kitchen re-design and refurbishment, but in the short-term, while they build their business, there are a few more pressing issues around kitchen and operational efficiency that Tim would like to solve.

Tim readily admits he is not a trained chef, so best practice in the kitchen is not second nature, and he needs to improve efficiency in the kitchen by careful research or by trial and error. Jason Wade, Category Development Manager for 3663, who specialises in catering equipment solutions visited to observe Tim and his team at work in the kitchen and to lend some practical advice and tips.

Jason's advice

"Tim has sound kit and some excellent, water and energy efficient machines. Tim copes well with the equipment he has inherited, and there are no real risks with his equipment, which were all very adequate for his needs.

"The first opportunity to improve the flow of the kitchen would be to swap the convection oven with the 6-burner cooker. The cooker is currently squeezed into a tight space and the simple change would create a safer area and more workable space around the oven.

"Serving temperatures can be improved by installing a static hot cupboard next to the oven with a heated gantry over it. It will shed heated light over the food when Tim is plating up, helping him to keep correct serving temperatures. The hot cupboard would also give him heated storage space for joints in busy periods, doubling as a plate warmer which will help him cope with those big tables at busy periods such as functions. It can hold up to 40 plated meals, and would give him space and time to plate up the food all at once, also enabling him to serve up more quickly so his customers can all eat at same time.

"When Tim does come to refit the kitchen, special white rock surfaces for walls can provide very hygienic, easy clean solutions, and non-slip floors can reduce potential for accidents at work. Also, some of the newer models of equipment such as dishwashers are highly ergonomic, and will save even more energy and water but are still reasonably priced.

"If funding proves difficult when Tim wants to move forwards with his plans, the kitchen refurbishment could be part of a leased package, allowing Tim to spread the cost over two, three or four years on a lease to purchase basis, so at the end of the term, the equipment is his own. This would help cashflow and free up money to spend on the accommodation which should generate revenue for Tim."

Jason's Top Tips for Pubs on Kitchen Efficiency

• Do consider leasing if you are in a tight spot when equipment fails unexpectedly

• Don't scrimp and save - second-hand or reconditioned kit can be a risk. Buying cheaper items can also be false economy as they say, 'buy cheap, buy twice'.

It is better to spread the cost and buy kit that will look after you. A warranty will normally cover the leaded period, giving you added peace of mind.

• Combi ovens are a three-in-one option and are perfect when you have a small space. You can still have flexibility with your food offering, while freeing up valuable space, time and resource.

• Consider energy and water saving ideas - sustainability makes good business sense, especially as these basic commodities are becoming increasingly expensive. A simple but great example is to cook vegetables in water and use this for stock, which saves the energy and time.

• Buying pre-prepared fresh vegetables or a Robot Coupe, an electrical vegetable processor which slices, dices and grates can save time and hassle on vegetable preparation, while providing portion control and consistency. This would enable you to offer home-made chips rather frozen as an example.

• Look at your kitchen layout: is there natural flow, and are there separate areas for starters, mains, desserts and where possible cooking, preparation and refrigeration areas? Separate areas for dirty plates is essential.

• Think of your kitchen as a production line and think through how the food preparation process works so you can make sure that your work area follows this in a natural flow.

• Decant food into separate containers into chilled storage to reduce wastage and keep the product in prime condition e.g. with Cambro storage solutions.

Can you identify with the Rose and Crown's challenges?

• When there is reduced availability of staff, and no chef is available, Tim needs to run the kitchen.

• Tim's chef is currently on maternity leave so there is potentially a skill shortage at key periods of trading.

• Inherited or older equipment can sometimes let you down - what if it needed to be replaced quickly?

• Tim wants to cook from scratch as much as possible.

• Coping with big tables of 14 to 20 people or functions without slowing down service for all the other customers eating.

• How can Tim prepare certain parts of dishes in advance as effectively as possible so that kitchen staff can hold the fort, freeing Tim up to do other things and support Vanessa behind the bar?

• How can Tim cook vegetables in advance without drying them?

• How can Tim improve speed to serve and efficiency generally, and save energy?

• How can Tim manage storage to best effect?

3663 can support Tim later with a full kitchen refurbishment and design, advising on materials such as sealed walls, tiles and most appropriate flooring. The team would work with Tim to design the kitchen the way he wants it, complete drawings, and project manage the installation for him. If your kitchen is not delivering the efficiency you expect please contact the catering equipment team on 0870 3663 960.

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