EG Group is making data-driven ovens a central part of its strategy to expand the Cinnabon bakery chain to dozens of locations in the UK.
The British retailer, which operates petrol stations and also has a majority stake in Asda, has already opened more than a dozen Cinnabon UK stores in just a few months, but eventually wants to reach 300 sites UK-wide.
It has devised a proven equipment package utilising innovative technology with a compact store lay-out to roll out stores petrol stations, supermarkets and standalone locations across the UK.
EG Group initially entered into a contract with Cinnabon to open 35 UK stores within a year, but Covid-19 delayed that process.
However, its flagship Frontier Park store and Central Production Kitchen (CPK) in Blackburn have now been open almost a year, while a second CPK in Denham, Buckinghamshire, will service stores in the south.
The CPK is used to mix dough which is sent to stores, as well as baking multipack products in higher volumes.
Louise Taylor, senior brand manager at Cinnabon UK, explained: “It’s an aggressive growth plan for the UK but this is a proven and incredibly cost-effective model. We’ve developed a concept which runs effectively from stores of between 15 and 18 square feet, supported by the Central Production Kitchen – whether it’s in a petrol station, in an Asda store or a standalone store, we have everything in place to open new locations quickly and effectively.”
Strong supplier relationships are key to the brand’s slick operation and early success in the UK, particularly back-of-house.
Each Cinnabon UK store is equipped with a ChefTop Mind.Maps Plus 7-tray combi oven in a stack with an Unox LIEVOX proofer.
The Central Production Kitchen has twice the capacity, with double stacked ovens and proofers, used to bake four-pack and six-pack cartons which are sent to stores.
The ovens offer consistent performance and a uniform bake, with smart features such as Climalux, which uses precise sensors to measure the humidity and ensure that cooking conditions match the chosen settings.
This not only guarantees repeatable cooking processes, but 90% water and energy savings compared with traditional combi ovens, according to the brand.
Everything is pre-programmed using the intelligent Unox controls, ensuring ease of use and consistent results every time.
New recipes and programmes can be easily downloaded from other sites and Cinnabon staff also take advantage of the self-cleaning function to maintain hygiene and performance of the ovens.
Ms Taylor said: “These ovens are really put through the paces but the performance and durability has been fantastic so far. We bake every 30 minutes because that’s our rolling time; hot products have a 30-minute shelf-life on the hotplate before we pack any unsold products into multipacks, to sell cold.
“Each hotplate holds around 36 single buns and we bake every 30 minutes for 10 hours a day. That’s 720 units a day, seven days a week. In addition, the Central Production Kitchen can send out more than 200 packs of six buns each day.”
Cinnabon has got WiFi set up in stores which enables it to access performance data of the ovens from a central point, via a portal.
“We can see if stores are cleaning the ovens, when they’re using them, if they’re leaving the door open too long and affecting quality of the bake – all really useful information have. It’s a fantastic system for us to be able to use,” said Taylor.
“The equipment is phenomenal but crucially, so is the level of service we get from the Unox team. The relationship with the Unox came from the Cinnabon parent brand in the US. They are the preferred equipment partner over there but from the first time we spoke to the UK team, the relationship has been really good.”
Cinnabon’s first drive-thru store in the UK is at Snow Hill in Wakefield, while there are also plans to open standalone high street stores at Deansgate, Manchester and Liverpool Central Station.