CASE STUDY: Versatile cooking and instant payback is just what the doctor ordered for RUH Bath’s hospital kitchen

Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust 2

The Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust (RUH) serves around 2,000 meals a day to patients, staff and visitors. 

The kitchens are very busy environments, with lots of bulk cooking based on locally sourced ingredients wherever possible.

“We’re very keen to ensure our catering provides nutritional meals to help our patients get better quicker,” says Philip Watson, head of facilities at the RUH.

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“The challenges of hospital catering at the RUH Bath are to produce a large number of meals at the same time, serving them across a large site,” he adds. “We need to do that with a good speed of service and in a very cost-effective manner. We also need to ensure the quality of cooking is high.”

In order to achieve this, the hospital has invested in Rational appliances to increase the volume of food it produces in the time available.

The RUH’s main kitchen has five Rational multifunctional cooking systems and five Rational combi steamers, while the smaller south kitchen, catering for visitors and staff, has one of each.

“I took my catering team to see a Live demonstration of the Rational multifunctional cooking system and they were blown away by its versatility,” says Mr Watson.

“We presented it to our capital investment group, describing how the chef had made chocolate mousse in a very simple way, they almost immediately gave me the go ahead. The payback on the equipment was so good that they were keen to invest and the project was completed within two months of the original request being put in.”

Before the RUH had the Rational multifunctional cooking systems, like many hospitals they used large boiling pans run by steam or electricity.

“Compared to the Rationals they were incredibly slow, they were very noisy, and we just did not have the control over them that we now have,” says Lee Johnston, food production manager at the RUH.

“The multifunctional cooking systems are very versatile, much more efficient and have cut our cooking times dramatically. In one area of the main kitchen we replaced seven pieces of equipment with just five multifunctional cooking systems, creating more room to work in. Because of their reduced cooking times, we can use each multifunctional cooking system several times during a service.”

A key benefit of the Rational cooking systems has been the savings the RUH has made. “We were told to expect a 10% saving on meat going into dishes with the multifunctional cooking systems, but it’s been 15% plus, from day one with an improved quality to the dish,” says Mr Johnston.

The hospital was expecting payback on its equipment investment in two years, but now thinks it is more likely to be just 15 months.

“We’re reducing the use of our fryers because the multifunctional cooking systems work wonderfully as deep fat fryers and they make savings in oil,” said Mr Johnston. “They do a lot of the work for you, automatically lowering and raising the baskets.”

The RUH also has a Rational oil cart. It filters the oil from the multifunctional cooking systems directly into the cart, enabling it to get a much longer life from the oil.

Combi ovens are a key part of the infrastructure and it steams and uses them as dry ovens, or a combination of the two. The overnight cooking function means it can load the combi with joints early in the evening and when the team come in the next morning they are cooked to perfection.

The kitchen brigade regularly use their multifunctional cooking systems and combi steamers in tandem. “We’ll start the cooking process in the multifunctional cooking systems and finish in the combi,” said Mr Johnston. “For cauliflower cheese, we use the combi to steam the cauliflower al dente, while we make the sauce in the multifunctional cooking systems. We pour the sauce over the cauliflower, then pop it into the combi to brown it off beautifully.”

Both the multifunctional cooking system and the combi steamer use the same control panel, which has helped staff to quickly get familiar with the Rational technology.

“It’s very simple to program the cooking processes for specific dishes, so that we can ensure consistency across our food products. The processes save time too. This means we can cook to a tighter timeline and, when it’s time to serve, our customers enjoy a better, fresher meal.”

The catering team at the RUH is proud of its record on sustainability. “We’ve won the Trust’s team of the month and team of the year awards for our local food provision,” revealed Mr Watson. “We’ve also been nominated for a NHS sustainability award. The Rational equipment has enabled us to go further, with a reduction in water of around 50% on our kitchen usage and a saving in energy consumption.”

The RUH makes use of Rational’s ConnectedCooking network solution, which allows the multifunctional cooking systems and combis to be monitored remotely, by managers, chefs and service personnel, via a PC, tablet or even on a smartphone.

“ConnectedCooking also enables us to create and share cooking processes,” continued Mr Watson. “We have seasonal menus that change regularly. ConnectedCooking gives us the ability to change and update the automatic cooking processes on multiple appliances.

“As a hospital we use an Assured Safe catering system. With ConnectedCooking we are able to collect HACCP data from all our Rational appliances making everything much easier.  This has reduced the amount of paper work we need to produce while giving us far better data for our HACCP process.”

Rational is the Platinum Partner sponsor of the Cooking Platforms category of FEJ Kitchen Excellence Week. For information and brochures, or to find out about free Rational Live demonstrations, call 01582 480388 or visit

Tags : hospital cateringKitchen Excellence WeekRationalRoyal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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