The European head of Taco Bell said the believes open kitchens will become a more recognised aspect of QSR environments as the chain revealed that new store designs in the UK will give customers an unhindered view of their food being prepared.
Designing kitchens for a QSR environment is a fine art, with prep areas notoriously small and congested.
The best fast food operators have honed their kitchen templates over a period of decades in order to achieve ultra-high productivity and ensure not a single inch of space is wasted.
Jorge Torres, general manager of Taco Bell Europe, told FEJ that the Tex-Mex specialist typically operates a one or two line production model based on the size of the kitchen – and increasingly customers can see their food being prepared.
“In the US, the majority of the stores are closed kitchens or what they call eye-line and traditionally that is what the QSR industry has had. If you look at McDonald’s, everything happens out back in the kitchen and you just get your product. Now the trends are different and we are opening them up so Taco Bell International has started experimenting with new layouts.
“I think people want to see what they are being served, what the ingredients are and how it is done. We think it has been very successful and now in the US you will see now what we call the Taco Bell Cantina, which is an open kitchen version where they also sell alcohol, which is something they never did before.”
Mr Torres – who has recently overseen a spate of new openings, including the store pictured above and below at Hammersmith – said that UK kitchens generally reflect the sort of set-up and infrastructure that Taco Bell has in the US.
“A big part of it is that the equipment has been tested a number of times as successful, and so we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Now, depending on the menu innovation, sometimes there are specific smallwares that we may have to bring in, and they will come in and out depending on whether it is a limited time offer or a permanent item.
“But I would say the kitchen is very standardised. And that’s why we work with specific partners that are consolidating the production of our equipment. There is an element of flexibility in terms of what we can do locally. For example, there is furniture that we can source locally but there are things that are so critical to the success of the kitchen that they need to be centralised.”
Taco Bell operates around 30 sites in the UK but more than 7,000 in the US. It is part of the Yum! Brands, the same group that owns KFC and Pizza Hut.