Hibernian Football Club has modelled its matchday food experience around Rational cooking systems after bringing its catering kiosks in-house.
The club now operates 14 kiosks that were previously run by outside companies, with a further six set to open next season as part of a wider investment in its banqueting and conferencing kitchens.
Gordon Halladay, kiosk manager at the club’s Easter Road stadium (main image), said: “We offer an eclectic mix of food here. The traditional pies and Bovril, of course, but also hotdogs, fish and chips and artisan doughnuts to name but a few.
“As well as this we also have to provide for different dietary requirements. Obviously, Natasha’s Law requires us to produce allergen free food, and we’re also seeing growing numbers of people looking for meat- or gluten-free alternatives, so we have to be able to meet a wide range of needs.”
With the Edinburgh club attracting gates of up to 20,000 spectators, Mr Halladay needed to find a way of preparing a preparing a large amount of food to be ready at the same time and ensuring the results are consistent and safe, as well as of a high standard.
In order to meet the demands of match days, he installed an iCombi Pro cooking system in each kiosk.
“Covid and lockdown have affected the way we do things,” he explained. “We’re managing it well, but like many businesses we are finding it difficult to recruit casual staff. The iCombi Pro is simple to train new staff on, simple to use and allows us to get more done in much less time.
“It’s all about speed of cooking and speed of service in a football stadium environment. It used to be that we would need to cook food and then hold it for up to an hour before selling it. We can still do that with the iCombi Pro if required, but the cooking times are so much faster, so it’s much easier to cook the food just before it’s needed.”
Mr Halladay said that features such as iProductionManager, which make it possible to cook different foods at the same time, with each being cooked exactly as required, had been a game-changer for the club.
“iProductionManager gives us the confidence to know that once we’ve programmed in the recipes, all the staff need to do is load up the iCombi Pro and set it going,” he said. “Often we’ll have staff coming in on match day who’ve never used anything like it, but we can have them cooking the whole menu within 15 minutes of them entering the stadium. This has really helped us navigate our recruitment issues without compromising the food we serve.”
The reduced cooking times the iCombi Pro allows also help to lower energy consumption, which was another important consideration for Gordon.
“Hibernian FC is aiming to be the greenest football club in Scotland, so improving our sustainability is a big priority for us. Being able to cook 150 pies in 12 minutes is a huge advance, and not having to use lots of difference appliances, constantly turning them on or off, means we’ve seen a significant reduction in the amount of energy we use.”
Mr Halladay said the club was investing heavily in the hospitality and catering operation.
“We’re planning on opening another six kiosks for next season, as well as upgrading the kitchens to increase our banqueting and conferencing capacity. We know that more iCombi Pros are going to be needed, and we’re also keen to see what Rational’s iVario Pro cooking system will be able to do for us.”