Efficiency – both the energy kind and the operational kind – is the name of the game for Shepherd Neame as the pub group bids to ensure its kitchens are equipped for success, its most senior chef has said.
The Kent-based outfit, which runs 300 pubs, has invested heavily in its food offer over the last few years and that is being supported by a renewed focus on state-of-the-art kitchens.
Simon Howlett, head development chef at the chain, said the company has seen the benefit of introducing both cooking and ventilation equipment that improves the entire kitchen set-up.
“One of our biggest changes has been to introduce air conditioning throughout our kitchens, to make them more comfortable work environments for our teams. We have also begun implementing energy saving measures wherever possible, including moving to Synergy Grills that cut gas usage and also reduce the heat in kitchens,” he explained.
Mr Howlett looks after the 70 sites in Shepherd Neame’s managed estate. Each kitchen is unique, as many of its pubs and hotels are historic buildings so kitchens have often been added later or expanded into other parts of the building.
It typically uses similar equipment throughout the estate, but creates bespoke layouts for each site.
Mr Howlett revealed that when it comes to the sort of traits that he looks for in new equipment, it all starts with innovation and whether it will make life easier for his chefs.
“Also, is it easy to clean and move around the kitchen to allow cleaning, and is it energy efficient? We use kitchen contractors for some projects but we are also in direct contact with individual suppliers. We are always keen to invest in equipment that will help our teams work more efficiently, so if suppliers meet our criteria it should be fairly simple for them to get into the supply chain,” he explained.
From a kitchen perspective, he said the chains focus over the next six to 12 months is pretty straightforward: “To continue our work to ensure that any new equipment is energy efficient and cost-effective, and helps to make life easier for the kitchen team with regards to cleaning, moving and safety.”