Pub chain Fuller’s is braced for new culinary challenges as the industry evolves, but remains adamant that the investment it has ploughed into equipping its kitchens will serve as the foundation for future food success.
The company’s 200 or so pubs are unique for the fact that each is responsible for its own menu, giving head chefs a level of autonomy rarely seen for a business boasting such scale.
Asked if the company tries to achieve a standard kitchen template across its estate or take each site on its own merits, director of food, Paul Dickinson, said: “When you buy listed premises you’ve obviously got the size of the operation and the restrictions to factor in but when it comes to the type of kit we use we are very loyal to our suppliers and the focus is the standard of the food.
“We have got 1,200 chefs and we teach them standards around food but we don’t tell them what to put on the menu, they have banks they work from. So the equipment has a purpose, it has got to be easily cleaned and everything else, but if you want to create a great working environment for chefs then that is where the starting point is and the customer is the target.”
Mr Dickinson said there are a number of key objectives when endeavouring to make a pub kitchen as operationally efficient as possible, including ergonomics, number of covers and the ability to serve changing food trends.
He added: “I think storage is also important with the way that health and safety is going at the moment — with allergens to think about have you got the right space to store product? The other key thing is the pass — how many plates can you do every 10 minutes and ensure that the standard is not questioned, I say to the team that in France they don’t release champagne until it’s perfect and it should be the same in the kitchen.”
Fuller’s has focused on installing heavy duty prime cooking equipment from brands such as Ambach into its kitchens and Mr Dickinson, who was speaking at the recent Commercial Kitchen show, said that 75% of the chain’s managed estate is now “thoroughly invested”.
He said: “Now the challenge we face is getting more people into the kitchens, but I am very proud of the environment the chefs can work in. An average kitchen, just on kit, we would spend £100,000 and that’s the cookline and the fridges but it doesn’t include flooring. We have very firm measurements between the cookline and the fridge to make sure that the individuals working there have the right space and we are very thorough on all aspects of HACCP and the point the product is delivered to when it is cooked. We want to make sure that you are not trying to put too much in a small box.”