Why your theatre kitchen might be turning customers off their food

Cooks are at work on December 13, 2010 in the kitchen of the Hotel Hyatt Vendome in Paris. AFP PHOTO FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

If you’re an operator with one or more open kitchens in your estate then beware — two-thirds of UK consumers only choose your restaurant to judge your kitchen cleanliness. FEJ looks at why procuring the best-looking equipment is one thing, but maintaining it is quite another.

Open kitchens are the de facto starting point for many catering designs these days. Once the domain of the select few, everybody from high-end independent restaurants to fast food operators have spotted the virtues of letting the theatrics of meal preparation unfold before customers’ eyes.

Six out of 10 UK respondents surveyed in a poll by SCA Hygiene said they had eaten in an open kitchen, with one third of those surveyed stating they would “prefer” a restaurant with an open kitchen. However, most surprisingly, when asked why they favour dining out in places with an open kitchen, it wasn’t because of the sense of theatre creating a unique experience, or the importance of watching their food go from pan to plate.

Consumers are utterly brutal today because they have so many dining choices amongst operators”

Instead, 63% of those surveyed said it was because ‘they can judge how clean and hygienic the kitchen is’, calling it the most important aspect of their visit. Meanwhile, when asked what other important benefits there are to visit a restaurant with an open kitchen, 45% of consumers said that ‘staff will perform better, since we can watch them.’

Jamie Wright, UK communications manager at SCA Hygiene, says: “Consumers are utterly brutal today because they have so many dining choices. The fact that 63% of UK consumers choose to visit a restaurant with an open kitchen, not to capitalise on the unique experience or to see the skilful journey their dish takes to the table, but to judge how clean and hygienic a restaurant’s operation is, goes a long way to showing consumer thinking in this day and age.”

He added: “Open kitchens are now such an important part of modern dining in restaurants and cafes. However, this should raise alarm bells with operators as customers are able to see inside what is traditionally a hidden area.”

Operators urged to heed kitchen fire warning

Restaurant proprietors are being urged to make kitchen extract ductwork cleaning more of a priority following a spate of restaurant fires. Two restaurant blazes recently highlighted the dangers that exist if operators fail to give due attention to this part of their business.

In the first incident, a pizza chef sustained minor injuries after a kitchen fire at The Wood Oven BBQ Restaurant in South Woodford, while just a few days later the extract system at a restaurant in Covent Garden was destroyed across two floors from ground floor to roof level. “Both these incidents provide a clear illustration of the cost which can result when essential kitchen extract ductwork is not carried out — both human and financial,” said Gary Nicholls, managing director of Swiftclean.

YARM, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 01:  Firemen climb into their fire engine as fire crews battle a fire at Crathorne Hall Luxury Hotel after fire broke out in a top floor room on October 1, 2014 in Yarm, United Kingdom. The luxury Hotel was owned by the Dugdale family until 1977. It has played host to politicians, courted royalty and delighted socialites over the decades.  (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The kitchen itself can be otherwise spotless, but if unseen fat, oil and grease build up in the extract ductwork, it can make a simple kitchen fire far worse.

“We urge all fast food outlet proprietors to be diligent in carrying out this cleaning in order to ensure the safety of their employees and the general public,” continues Nicholls. “If we can remove the grease that fuels these fires, we can reduce the number of actual fires that occur.”

Swiftclean advises all restaurant owners to ensure their extraction systems and ducting are kept clean and TR/19-compliant in order to avoid the accumulation of fat, which can lead to a fire breaking out.

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