The ability to create and build a perfect commercial kitchen will always come down to what application it is needed for. A busy city centre hotel kitchen, for instance, will require a different choice of equipment, lay-out and flow of service to an independent café. In the fourth and final installment of this special report, FEJ examines the factors that casual dining operators need to be aware of to maximise their back-of-house investment.
Casual dining operators have come to dominate the high street in recent years and, as they have rapidly grown their estates, their investment in catering equipment has also flourished. From charcoal grills and wood-fired pizza ovens to the latest griddles and induction equipment, casual dining kitchens in the UK tend to be some of the most innovative around.
Generally speaking, industry rules for kitchen space are to allocate five square feet of space per seat in the restaurant. Therefore, if a venue can hold 100 customers at peak capacity, a 500 square foot kitchen would do just the job. Of course, not all casual dining operators are blessed with optimal space, and so kitchen design will be heavily geared towards accommodating core cooking equipment, with remaining spaces maximised for prep areas.
When Catering Design Group (CDG) was given the job of completing a dramatic transformation of the first floor restaurant space at the Barbican Centre in London into a new casual dining concept called ‘Bonfire’, it worked with caterer Searcy’s to refurbish the kitchen and include state-of-the-art equipment around a theatre-style space to complement the ‘laid back’ environment front-of-house.
One of the major successes of the project was the integration of the kitchen with the brand identity of the site. An urban setting was created to showcase the personality of the ‘Bonfire’ brand and its menu of rotisserie chicken, burgers, milkshakes and desserts.
Taking inspiration from the celebrated architecture and exposed concrete prominent in the original structure, CDG immersed themselves in the raw, industrial nature of the space, enhancing it further with the use of reclaimed timbers, galvanised steel, corrugated metal sheets and steel mesh panels. Menus are held by steel components and clipboards suspended from butchers’ hooks.
The rich, vibrant reds, blues and orange bonfire tones add warmth and interest around the space. Statement patchwork floor tiles in navy, orange and grey cleverly zone the space, while subconsciously leading customers effortlessly through each area to improve customer flow.
Furniture within the bar and across the banquette dining area features reclaimed timber and galvanised steel finishes. Oversized, industrial copper pendants provide an eye-catching feature over the bar, complementing the tones of the floor tiles underneath.
“We have the historical knowledge and expertise to advise our clients what is good, what will work and which pieces of equipment are right for their business and budget,” says Phil Howard, managing director of Catering Design Group.
“We are completely unbiased in our approach and base our decisions purely on the client’s requirements. We put a great deal of importance into listening and understanding a brief. When it comes to equipment, we’re looking for good quality and value for money. New ideas, concepts and developments are also hugely important, as is sustainability.”
1. Casual dining operators obsess about the need for speed. The emphasis must be on kit that delivers multiple dishes quickly to satisfy customers’ expectations and increase table turns.
2. One of the biggest challenges for casual dining operators is how to realise the ROI on a piece of new kit across multiple sites. Equipment must add value to the business, so functionality, ease of use and warranty are often more important than capital price.
3. Equipment flexibility is an important consideration. Casual dining operators are renowned for evolving their menus more frequently than other sectors, which can subsequently lead to the need for kit to be used differently to what it was originally specified for.
MEET THE DISTRIBUTOR
Name: Catering Design Group (CDG)
Address: The Design House, 6 Cottesbrooke Park, Heartlands, Daventry, NN11 8YL
Tel: 01327 314860