The man responsible for the kitchens at Fuller’s 182 managed pubs in the UK claims its decision to spend more on improving its cooking facilities has allowed it to accommodate a higher specification of equipment that is paying dividends for its business.
The company has completed some 72 kitchen re-fits in the past four years as part of a strategy that has driven double-digit growth in sales.
And head of food, Paul Dickinson, reveals the company has more than quadrupled its kitchen budget during that time as it has seen the benefits of investing in the right design and equipment.
“In the early days we would spend £40,000 on a kitchen design, whereas now we are spending around the £200,000mark,” he said. “An average investment is about £120,000 and that is just kit — it’s not bricks and mortar and Whiterock cladding.”
Fuller’s expectations have also changed as a result of this commitment. It used to accept that its equipment would have a very short shelf life, but it now looks for a much longer return on its investment.
“We’ve now got proper chefs with experience who can look after the kit and get long-term use out of it,” he says, noting that he’d expect at least 10 to 15 years of use out of the kind of premium cooking suites it is now specifying.
Dickinson said that key foodservice equipment brands used by the chain include Rational, Foster, Vitamix and Ambach, while around 30 of its managed pubs are now running sous vide equipment.
Fuller’s food sales from managed pubs grew 10.4% last year, with the company citing the “superb performance” of its food business as one of the reasons why the business delivered such strong results for 2014. In its last annual report, Fuller’s said that improving its kitchens was a vital component of an overall refurbishment strategy that saw it increase capital expenditure by 29% to £38m last year.