TGI Fridays is planning another four restaurant openings this year and, according to the company’s executive chef Terry McDowell, the challenge of installing kitchens that meet its operational objectives is made easier by flexibility from the supply chain.
Mr McDowell, who is head of food and drink for the 82-strong, has been with the company for 18 years and he says there is now a noticeable difference in the level of support it receives from kitchen equipment suppliers.
He says there is a greater willingness from suppliers to work with companies such as Fridays on a bespoke level than they ever was in the past, which provides huge benefits when rolling out new sites.
“They have become more personalised to give you a solution that’s right for your business as opposed to being modular and ‘this is what we do, take it or leave it’. If you talk about things like the Synergy Grill, where you get a benefit from there being fewer thermocouples, less grease or spillages to clean, and it uses less energy, it ticks all the boxes, whereas in the past there would be some businesses that would just say, ‘well that’s what we have got, we have had that for 30 years and we’re not changing.’ I think the continuation of innovation and personalisation makes a difference.”
TGI Fridays has worked with a number of key brands over a long period, including Pitco and Winterhalter, while catering equipment distributor Dawnvale has delivered a number of projects for the business and keeps it abreast of new equipment innovations.
So when Fridays does discover a piece of equipment that it believes will add significant value to its kitchens, how quickly does it go from introducing it to a single site to rolling it out across the estate?
“It really depends on the piece of kit. We will trial it in one or two stores to make sure that it works and validate it, and then we’ll put it into new stores. From there we will install as needed because there is no point in throwing away kit that works, but clearly if and when we need to replace kit we will replace it with the latest.”
That’s not to say it won’t retrofit. McDowell points out that all of its estate used gas hobs once upon a time, but it has since transitioned to around 70% induction. “That kind of thing takes an amount of time but we know it is the right way to go.”