Las Iguanas will be scouring the market for game-changing equipment in 2019 as it looks at how it can take its dishes to the next level.
The South American-inspired chain, which runs 55 restaurants in the UK, has focused heavily on diversifying and enhancing its menu offer in the past few years.
Head of food Glenn Evans has been involved in developing ways to make products more fresh-looking, changing the crockery and presentation, and using ingredients such as micro herbs and preparing fresh pink pickled onions to finish off a dish and really lift it.
The next step is to identify the applications that can move it on another notch again. “Now I am looking at it and going, ‘well, if we want to up our game and we want to make our enchilada or our nachos the best in the business then we need to have those pieces of equipment to be able to take us to that next level,” he told FEJ.
The kitchen templates that Mr Evans inherited when he joined the Casual Dining Group-owned business three years ago were all based around efficiency, making sure that the chefs could build and execute quickly without compromising quality.
He absolutely agrees that this is the way it should be, but also feels it is probably a good time to make some strategic changes, especially given the labour challenges facing the industry.
“Finding the right skill level in this sector is key for us because there aren’t many chefs in the casual dining sector that have the necessary skill levels required for our kitchens specifically. We don’t want to jeopardise everything by taking the easier route of outsourcing everything to a manufacturer because the fundamental ethos of why we are so successful is that a lot of our salsas and sauces are prepared by our chefs in-house. I would therefore rather focus on trying to make the kitchen more efficient and bring in some newer equipment that improves the quality.”
With one eye on how to future-proof a kitchen and take the set-up to a new level in terms of energy efficiency and speed of service, he is convinced that induction needs to become a focal point of Las Iguanas’ kitchens, too.
“Gas is great and such a lot of our chefs are used to it, but actually induction could help us in a lot of ways. Fajitas are one of our top-selling dishes so we have undercounter ovens that are literally only used for keeping skillets hot at the moment. But we still have to bring them up and put them onto the gas flame. Induction would allow us to get skillets to that maximum heat within 30 seconds, and help us deliver a quicker, more consistent fajita, as well as improve the speed of cooking our Brazilian curries and sauces.
“It would also give us extra space. Some of the kitchens in our estate are very small — they still have all of the necessary things they need in terms of the template we have got, but they have got very limited prep space. Induction would alter that because if they are not cooking on it they can be preparing on it. None of our estate has induction at the moment, but we do see that as the next phase.”
The full interview with Glenn Evans can be read in the December issue of FEJ.