The Operator of the Year for Equipment Innovation, sponsored by Jestic Foodservice Solutions, acknowledges that the introduction of new equipment to a kitchen — be it in the form of cooking, refrigeration, warewashing, beverage or any other category — can have a profound effect on a foodservice business’ operations.
This award recognises the time, investment and sheer hard work that goes into rolling out innovative equipment across multiple sites.
We are delighted to announce that the 2021 shortlist includes the following operators:
German Doner Kebab
Not even the small matter of a global pandemic has prevented German Doner Kebab from embarking on a massive expansion campaign in the UK, where it is on course to open more than 40 new sites this year. Among the projects that have kept it busy this year is its restaurant at The 02, which now serves as the fast-casual dining chain’s flagship UK site. The right kitchen set-up is intrinsic to the success of GDK as dishes are prepared in front of customers using premium meats and fresh local vegetables. The company’s tried and tested methods are totally different to the way other operators produce their kebabs due to a unique blend of traditional spices and exclusive products and innovative cooking processes.
Oakman Inns & Restaurants
With the lockdowns preventing it from welcoming customers into its pubs, Oakman Inns took proactive steps to devise a series of new concepts using its existing kitchen infrastructure. At The Royal Foresters in Berkshire it opened an experimental deli and bakery for locals and lockdown chefs desperately seeking that missing ingredient, while new dishes were added to its growing takeaway menu including wood-fired pizzas, Sunday roasts and meal bundles. The company’s tried and tested kitchen set-up – which is largely based on charcoal- and wood-fired theatre-style cooking – also allowed it to establish a second-to-none delivery service. Additionally, the firm created a ‘Oakman at Home’ dining offer for regular customers featuring favourites such as slow roast belly of pork and Ultimate burger.
The pizza franchise has embarked on multiple kitchen projects as part of a campaign to grow its brand in the UK. As well as launching in high street locations, the company has been working on initiatives to partner with leisure venues, sports stadiums and holiday parks that see the value of adding a recognised hot food proposition. The strategy – which has seen it expand in places such as Hampshire, Cheshire and Yorkshire – is built around a bespoke development plan. Larger sites can operate a fully fitted out store, while franchised mobile units are available for smaller sites. These offer a low cost, flexible entry point, particularly suited to multi-venue ownership where pizza delivery can be alternated on different days for different sites.
Pret A Manger
Pret a Manger’s pioneering spirit came to the fore during the pandemic as the chain launched the UK’s first in-shop coffee subscription service for coffees, teas, frappes and other blended drinks. Due to the success of this service, Pret has had to innovate its use of equipment to meet demand and explore ways of driving extra value and capacity from existing assets. For instance, it looked beyond the traditional use of Elmeco slush machines and instead filled the blender with high quality smoothies and frappuccinos. This ingenuity helped to significantly increase the speed of delivery on a range of beverages that traditionally add significant labour and time to an operation. This has led to some sites being able to double their turnover on these product lines and optimised workflow back of house.
Convenience store operator SPAR Scotland has been rolling out its food-to-go brand CJ’s at a rapid clip thanks to the installation of innovative foodservice merchandisers. The company worked with Counterline to create a dual-purpose heated and chilled countertop display capable of holding a variety of breakfast and lunchtime offerings. The multi-functional base unit provides the operator with flexible preparation support and bread bay, as well as utensil, tray and packaging storage areas. The concept is close to being installed in all 108 company-owned stores and is set to be extended to independent SPAR retailers that wish to expand into grab-and-go. The CJ’s offer gives store managers the opportunity to serve hot drinks, breakfast sandwiches, burgers, pizza slices and pie throughout the day.
The 2021 FEJ Awards ceremony and gala dinner takes place on Thursday 23 September, the first evening of the Commercial Kitchen show, at the Hilton Canary Wharf.