There is nothing quite like the sight of 30 publicans frantically chopping vegetables, heating sauces and grilling protein to remind you that management in the pub sector is not for those who like an easy life!
Welcome to a Punch Pubs menu training day, where attendees are actively encouraged to get hands-on in the kitchen and learn how to execute the perfect dish.
Things are obviously on hold right now as pubs wait to see when they will be allowed to reopen, but just before lockdown I was invited along to one of these sessions at the chain’s impressive Development Kitchen and Training Academy in Burton upon Trent.
After a short welcome and some friendly advice from menu development manager Andy Briggs, the publicans split off in groups of two and three, donned their aprons and took their place behind one of the 12 fully equipped work stations installed in the training kitchen.
They were then given 20 to 25 minutes to assemble a dish from the instructions placed on their workstations.
The ingredients required had all been stored in the undercounter fridges by Andy and his team beforehand, but the rest was completely down to them.
Armed with a recipe print-out containing a comprehensive breakdown of everything from allergens to potential wastage and gross profit – courtesy of the Kitchen CUT system that Punch uses – publicans threw themselves into the task of recreating what was in front of them before presenting their effort to the group and receiving feedback.
For some, it was the first time behind a hob, for others it was all very familiar as they are used to working in their own kitchens on a daily basis.
What was clear was that everyone valued the chance to gain practical experience in a team setting and compete against the clock, spurred on by the laughter and encouragement of their peers.
Punch has got more than 170 pubs on its managed partnership scheme and this facility – along with the structured training programme it offers – is designed to help them unlock more possibilities for profit and growth.
Once lockdown is over, and pubs are given the green light to operate again, I am sure that many will be looking forward to returning to Burton for another kitchen masterclass that makes them more margin on food.