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 second part of this special report, FEJ examines the factors that operators in the education sector need to be aware of to maximise their back-of-house investment.
Schools have a very tight ‘window’ for service — namely morning, break and lunchtime — and speed of service through the servery is paramount, as is queue control. ‘Mirroring’ areas so that two queues can go through the counter at one time is integral to effective catering design, while prime cooking equipment needs to be sufficient so that food can be cooked then served as soon as possible after it’s ready in order that nutritional value is not diminished.
One company that knows all about designing and developing successful kitchens for schools is WilcoxBurchmore. Managing director, Cathy Wilcox, says that the first thing to bear in mind when planning a new kitchen is what food is going to be produced, and in what style.
“If the food is mostly fresh, which is the trend, then there must be enough chilled storage and preparation space,” she advises. “If it’s a satellite kitchen and bringing food in from elsewhere then there must be dedicated space for the containers it is delivered in, as well as equipment to either keep it hot, cold or regenerate. Oh, and the budget is a key element too!” she adds.
The choice of equipment will also be influenced by the volumes being cooked for and the number and skill of the kitchen staff — the latter is particularly important as, with the right design and tools, the cooks will be able produce the food that they’re capable of on a daily basis without overstretching themselves.
“Combination ovens are a must, they give great flexibility of cooking modes. I’d now say a Frima — you need to get your head round the fact they’re not an upgraded bratt pan and they can revolutionise how you can cook!” says Wilcox. “Good quality veg prep machines for salads and vegetables save time and produce even slices/chopped items. Training on all this equipment is essential — not just initially but follow up sessions, too.”
One of the most impressive school kitchen projects that WilcoxBurchmore has delivered involves the Royal Grammar School in Guildford, which caters for 900 pupils in one sitting. The kitchen had to be able to produce a large amount of freshly cooked food, which then needed to be served within half an hour, but the equipment was old, the ventilation insufficient and the tiled floor was really hard on the feet and backs of the catering team.
WilcoxBurchmore installed new ventilation, flooring and Whiterock walls, and re-arranged the equipment to make as much working space as possible. Wilcox says the reaction from the catering manager and head chef when the project was finished made the hard work all worthwhile.
“They walked in and said, ‘it’s huge!’ And truly with the newly-painted ceiling, brand new hood, Whiterocked walls and colourful safety floor it looked a totally different place. We’d added another bratt pan and combi oven and additional sinks and tables, but really it was the re-organisation that gave the additional space.”
1. Equipment such as combi ovens is revolutionising the way school meals are produced, especially as food should ideally be served as soon as possible after it’s cooked to retain nutritional value.
2. Overly complex kit is unnecessary. Schools serve food for very specific periods and numbers, so automation is key for kitchen staff.
3. Don’t under-estimate the importance of equipment training. Follow-up sessions are valuable for ensuring staff are optimising the equipment as much as possible.
MEET THE DISTRIBUTOR
Address: The Kitchen House, 74 Linden Avenue, Ruislip, HA4 8UA
Tel: 01895 630726