A leading bakery chain is installing state-of-the-art ovens across its estate to grow its food-to-go offer after spotting how the equipment was being deployed in a retail environment by another baker.
Birds Bakery, which was founded in 1919 and remains under family ownership, operates 62 stores within the Midlands and a main bakery operation in Derby, employing more than 700 people in total.
With its ovens visible to customers behind the counter, the chain set about sourcing a bakery oven that could deliver consistent results but also look good behind the counter as part of a rolling programme of store refits and new openings.
It opted for Unox’s Bakertop Mind.MapsTM combi ovens after initially seeing them in operation elsewhere.
Mike Holling, sales and marketing director at Birds Bakery, explained: “The relationship with Unox started when I visited another bakery that were using them and I liked the look of the ovens in the retail environment. I started to do a bit of research, saw Unox at a couple of exhibitions and had been impressed by the overall operation. Of course, it’s fine to look good in the retail setting – but they needed to be able to deliver on the bake too.”
After a trial that saw two Bakertop ovens stacked on top of each other to increase capacity without taking up additional footprint, the chain was impressed by its cooking results, connectivity and self-cleaning capabilities.
It is now installing two countertop convection ovens in all new and refurbished stores.
The ovens are used to bake a variety of products including savouries, sausages, baguettes and confectionary, including pastries and croissants. Bread and bread rolls are baked in the central Derby bakery and then delivered to stores.
Mr Holling added: “There is no question that these ovens have helped us to develop our food-to-go market – a market in which we expect to see continued growth in this category due to coronavirus.
“The carvery joints, for example, have given us to opportunity to introduce a hot carvery sandwich option, which is something we’ve wanted to do for a number of years but we knew we needed the right equipment. Unox ovens include the option of a food probe and this is vital to getting the meats cooked perfectly.”
Mr Holling said the self-cleaning process made life easy for staff, while the flexibility of configurations – the ovens are available in four, six or ten grid models – allows it to stack them in a way that fits the individual space in each store.
The company has also worked with Unox to connect the ovens via the internet so that performance and operation can be monitored from a central site.
This allows it to see what each oven in each individual shop is doing, what time they are turned on, when they are cleaned and how many bakes they are used for.
“It gives us ultimate control and it’s easy to see how that can deliver efficiencies for lower costs and enhanced performance. I fully endorse the use of technology in this way and I only expect it to become more valuable going forward,” concluded Mr Holling.