Tesco might have exited the branded restaurant business with the sale of Giraffe last year, but it is currently embarking on one of the largest kitchen refurbishment programmes in the UK, FEJ can reveal.
The disposal of the casual dining chain, which it bought for £49m only four years previously, was widely regarded as the end of a strategy to create big-box retail destinations blending foodservice and shopping.
However, the supermarket giant still runs almost 500 in-store cafes and it is investing significant sums of money equipping its kitchens with the latest solutions.
Adam Martin, managing director of Tesco Hospitality, said: “Equipment plays a key part in our business. It is about finding the product quality and the reliability, and using labour efficiently, but the agility of the equipment matters massively, too.
“I will give you two examples of where we have invested in productivity and quality recently. We have just installed 245 Merrychef Eikon e2S ovens in the course of about four or five weeks. That was one hell of a roll-out programme. We chose this piece of equipment because it balances labour productivity with product quality. It delivers a really reliable product and the quality is very good. And we have also been busy rolling out Eversys coffee machines because again that is a machine that is reliable and delivers fantastic quality coffee.”
Mr Martin, who was speaking at the recent CEDA Conference, said that while in-store catering for supermarkets has historically been “dispiriting”, the situation has changed considerably. He said that extensive research into its customer base had brought focus back to the business and revealed what diners want from its cafes.
Tesco currently operates 471 in-store eateries across the UK, and Mr Martin revealed that more than 20% of the estate is scheduled to receive new investment before the end of the year.
“We are busy refurbishing and we will do another 100 or so this year. It is a very ambitious programme, it is probably one of the most ambitious roll-out programmes in the UK eating and drinking out industry at the moment, and a big part of what we spend is on kitchen equipment.”