Casual dining operators could slash their kitchen costs by thousands of pounds a year by embracing a consultative approach towards the equipment they use, a leading kitchen specialist has claimed.
Restaurants run the risk of chalking up unnecessarily high operating bills and energy costs by failing to choose equipment that is best suited to their needs.
But Dunstable-based Advance Group is bidding to prevent that happening with a ‘Smart Kitchens’ approach to catering supply and design. And it has been able to drive productivity and profitability for a number of the UK’s top casual dining chains through a policy of breaking down every aspect of the offering.
Darryl Pannell, commercial director at Advance, said that a focus on understanding operators’ menu composition in terms of volume, time and menu specifics, coupled with a philosophy around ergonomics that is based on end-user processes rather than pre-existing designs, has been shown to achieve results.
He said that a perfect example of this consultative approach with a major casual dining group entailed Advance carrying out an operational study on a grilled concept.
“The customer had already started to install a £5,000 chargrill that would cost £3,000 a year to run and £500 a year to maintain. Multiplied by hundreds of sites, this represented a huge investment decision for the company. We established that the customer actually needed grills that cooked food more quickly, rather than greater capacity. Moreover, food wasn’t being delivered on time due to specifying grills not up to the job – consequently the temperature recovery time was totally inadequate.”
He said that altering the spec of the equipment had helped save the customer “tens of thousands of pounds”.
The customer had already started to install a £5,000 chargrill that would cost £3,000 a year to run and £500 a year to maintain”
While some catering equipment suppliers prefer to base their designs on traditional models with pre-determined zones, Advance feels it is dangerous for operators to accept a situation where their kitchen is shaped by a tick-box list of pre-determined brands and products.
Advance has its own state-of-the-art development kitchen at its HQ and Pannell says the firm, which has served chains such as Carluccio’s and Jamie’s Italian, will work with operators to “test concepts to destruction” to ensure the best outcome.
One multi-site casual dining customer recently asked Advance to look at every aspect of its process, from menus to in-house challenges and delivery. It also required the development of a future-proofed kitchen operating platform that could respond to multiple needs.
“We sketched out how the kitchen would be laid out, asked questions about any volume constraints, and shaped our re-designs around high volume items. Our advice came from working in kitchens producing food in a more ergonomic way, which worked for the customer’s exact menu,” he said.
“This was a good example of a customer seeking out our specific expertise and advice on how to adapt, evolve and develop dining brands – essentially reinvigorating what had previously been perceived as a slightly tired but major national brand.”