Healthy fast food chain Pod has set itself the target of creating a new working template for its kitchens by June and, if the revised set-up proves a success in a live environment, will potentially seek to roll it out across multiple sites.
The task of reviewing the back-of-house operations falls in the hands of Sean Burlinson, who joined the chain at the start of the year as food director. He is responsible for selecting and specifying the kitchen equipment Pod uses and will ultimately determine what the future of the chain’s kitchens look like.
Burlinson, who previously worked in development chef roles for BaxterStorey, Harris + Hoole and Spirit Pub Company, says Pod’s current back-of-house process are too labour intensive while some of the core equipment it uses is no longer the right fit for the business today.
“The big challenge is how we improve speed of service because ultimately we are about fast, healthy food,” he told FEJ. “We are good at the healthy bit, but at times we struggle with the fast bit. So it is about going to suppliers and saying, ‘okay, we have got this problem, how do we solve it?’ It is about looking at everything: improving the process and improving the ingredients to make everything faster, which will then have a knock-on effect for service.”
His days at Spirit, where he served as a menu development chef for brands such as Flaming Grill, taught him that if you get the equipment innovation part right, and simplify the processes, you get a happier kitchen team and a more consistent product. And he has no qualms about putting the onus on suppliers to come up with the answers.
“Part of my role is supplier relationship and understanding who we can go to in order to solve problems. We shouldn’t have to have our teams in the back of the kitchen solving these problems for themselves. We need to solve it for them,” he says.
Like other operators in the grab-and-go market, the cross-over between breakfast and lunch is one of the major pinch-points that he is looking to address. If things go the way that Burlinson thinks they might, it could eliminate the use of induction hobs at lunchtime (a typical store will currently use up to 12 now) and build the operation around some form of regen cupboard or oven, bain maries and rice cookers.
“What we want to avoid doing is adding complication,” he remarks. “The challenge is to make it simpler and drive consistency, without changing the quality or expectation of the output.”
Read the full interview with Sean Burlinson in the March edition of Foodservice Equipment Journal.