Star Pubs & Bars is rapidly driving up the percentage of its sites that sell food by creating a series of kitchen templates and minimum kit lists that make it simple for pub managers to run a catering operation, FEJ can reveal.
Some 74% of Star’s 1,000-strong estate are now serving food, which it claims is at least 9% higher than any other national leased and tenanted pub company.
And the figure only looks set to increase following the success that the Heineken-owned chain has had since introducing a set number of kitchen designs that its pubs can utilise.
Star has created six individual kitchen templates that it works from based on the volume and style of food that the pub intends to produce, and a minimum kit list for each of those kitchens.
“The way we approach it is that we look at the type and style of food that the licensee wants to do within the segment that they fit and then assess whether it’s going to require a high level of culinary skills or whether it’s more of a mainstream offer,” explains Luke Davies, Star’s food strategy and implementation manager. “We will then look at the anticipated volume, which enables us to establish the kit and equipment that is needed, and we stick to that very rigidly.”
Mr Davies believes Star’s approach differs from the general leased and tenanted market as it funds the kit and equipment for the kitchens. Typically, licensees would be expected to finance their own catering equipment, with the pub companies responsible for other interior features, such as walls, floors and extraction, he claimed.
He added that Star also refuses to purchased anything but commercial-grade kit. “My experience of the leased and tenanted trade in general is that kitchens are under-invested in and you do find a lot of domestic fridges, freezers and microwaves out there, but we only buy commercial-grade equipment. The kit will either be medium duty or heavy duty depending on volumes. “
Asked if the six kitchen templates offer the chain enough flexibility for the estate, Mr Davies replied: “What it gives us is a minimum kit list, so if the licensee’s plan or vision was to have a front-of-house pizza oven then that is something we would look at on top of that on a site-by-site basis. We feel it is very important to have that minimum list. The worst thing that can happen in these situations is that you set a budget for the kitchen and then licensees feel they’ve only got a limited amount of spend and they have to do their best with it. It’s much better to demonstrate the minimum duty and grade that is required and then look at additional needs on a case-by-case basis.”
Star works closely with its main catering equipment suppliers, YCE Catering Equipment and Airedale Catering Equipment, to source the hardware that it needs for its kitchens. Mr Davies said that it was open to introducing new brands and items of equipment if it could prove the business case.
“At the moment we are doing quite a bit of data gathering on kit and equipment, and looking at brands such as Falcon, Lincat and Blue Seal ovens in particular. They are brands that I have used throughout my career and I think they are go-to brands for the managed pub industry because of the value they offer,” he said.
The full interview can be found in the September issue of FEJ, available to view as a digital edition HERE.