An “interactional kitchen environment” that promotes a fast, efficient service to cater for the 70 million passengers that transit through Euston Station each year is at the heart of Paul Hollywood’s newly-launched bakery concept. FEJ nipped along to check it out and meet the man himself.
As the judge of the Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood is a familiar face on the TV screens of the British public. But what the viewing masses won’t necessarily know is that in between filming, Hollywood has spent the last couple of years perfecting the recipes and design of a new retail concept that bears his name.
‘KNEAD by Paul Hollywood’ opened to the public last month and the whole operation is built around the kitchen, with staff tasked with ensuring customers are served in less than one minute.
The offering is based entirely on recipes developed by Hollywood and produced on-site in a kitchen that he helped design. The kitchen, which makes up about a third of a site that was previously occupied by three individual street food units, consists of an Electrolux air-o-steam combi oven and refrigeration cabinets, food preparation areas, coffee machines and bespoke grab-and-go counters.
KNEAD is operated by SSP, which has spent the past two years working with the Great British Bake Off judge to get the format market-ready.
Hollywood admits he had previously rebuffed offers from other operators to create a foodservice concept for the high street. “I had said no to a lot of them because I wasn’t really ready or interested in that to happen until SPP came along. When we chatted initially I was interested in what they’d done before and their track record. I have got a team of people that work with me, we develop recipes for Bake Off, we develop recipes for books, we work from ideas, push the boundaries from where baking and sandwich food is moving to, so when we met initially it was about getting an idea and a feel for what we were going to do and the plan was to open up this.”
Hollywood said the brief he gave SPP was heavily based around his bakery preferences, what he had grown up with and quality of ingredients. “I’m the toughest critic there probably is on the planet at the moment so it is key that we get the right products, the right quality and the right flavour. All the recipes that you have got here are all my recipes,” he says.
The KNEAD brand is designed to strike a balance between mainstream and aspirational by offering a variety of products that offer something a little different from typical high street bakeries. Sausage rolls, for instance, are sold by the inch. The unit will be open from 7am to 10pm weekdays, and 8am on weekends, to cater to the high footfall.
“I’m the toughest critic there probably is on the planet at the moment so it is key that we get the right products, the right quality and the right flavour”
Travel hub foodservice specialist SSP, which manages 42 separate brands, has expressed its desire to roll out the brand to additional sites if it takes off.
Simon Smith, CEO of SSP UK & Ireland, says: “We have put a lot of time and effort into getting this one right, so as with all things we want to make sure that we really learn from this one, do a great job for our client and our customers, and then we will look at other opportunities as and when they arise. With the amount of effort we put into this, you would want to do more. But let’s get this one really going first.”
Asked when SSP would likely take a decision on rolling out the next KNEAD store, Smith insisted it was not working to a specific deadline but would instead see how things pan out. “We don’t really set anything like that. You want to learn how to do the concept right with the customers first. Some things take longer, some things take shorter, so we don’t try and pigeon-hole ourselves into three months, six months or a year. The amount of effort and energy that the team put in to this, we want to do more but you don’t want to rush something, you want to get it right and then do more with it. I’ve seen a lot of companies that rush and then they come back and go, ‘oh, we have kind of lost our way’, so we always believe in getting it right, doing a great job and then rolling it out.”
Knead for speed
– The design of the first KNEAD outlet is centred around a live interactional kitchen environment and the need for fast, efficient service that is personal (served in under a minute).
– In-house methods of production are inspired by Hollywood’s own techniques, with an emphasis on fresh, British food.
– All ingredients have been specifically selected by Hollywood following extensive testing.
– The core food equipment used within the kitchen area is provided by Eletcrolux, including the combi oven and refrigeration.