The Operator of the Year for Innovative Kitchen Design category at this year’s FEJ Awards will be decided by a live ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitching session at the Commercial Kitchen show.
All other categories of the FEJ Awards are determined by an online voting process that has seen the industry vote for their winners over the last few weeks.
However, in a special twist to this year’s awards, the five Innovative Kitchen Design finalists will have the opportunity to convince a panel of judges why their kitchen operations are the most innovative.
Each of this year’s shortlisted finalist (Fuller’s, Las Iguanas, Pizza Express, Taco Bell and TGI Fridays) will have five minutes to tell the panel – led by category sponsor Ceda – all about their kitchens. The winner will then be announced at the FEJ Awards.
Andrew Seymour, editorial director of FEJ, said: “The live pitching will add some real spice to this year’s awards. We’re expecting it to be a fun, lively and informative session. All of the finalists operate very different kitchen set-ups to one another, but each is highly innovative for its own particular reasons. The judges really are going to have a difficult job picking one winner.”
The live pitching session is due to take place at 15.45-16.15 Tuesday 4 June at Keynote Theatre 1 at the Commercial Kitchen show, which takes place at the Birmingham NEC.
The winner will then be revealed at the FEJ Awards at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole later that evening.
Katie Tyler, event manager of Commercial Kitchen, said: “As a supporter of the FEJ Awards, the Commercial Kitchen team are excited to incorporate the live award pitching into the show’s theatre programme. The audience will be in for a treat when the deserving finalists explain why their incredible kitchens are the most innovative.”
FINALISTS: Operator of the Year for Innovative Kitchen Design, sponsored by Ceda
Fuller’s chefs have met the rising trend for healthy eating by doubling the number of vegetarian and vegan dishes in their repertoires over the past year, with the chain supporting its push for great food with high levels of investment in high-end kitchen equipment and training. The company leverages a core menu of traditional dishes but essentially offers more than 200 menus as each site is encouraged to own their food offer, with 70% of its food supply chain British and local. Integrated recipe and stock systems are now in operation across the business, which has delivered improved visibility of food stocks and margins and helped it minimise food waste without impacting creativity and innovation.
Las Iguanas makes no secret of the fact that the structure of its kitchens is very different to your standard operator and that is one of the main reasons it has been able to remove complexity from its set-up while proudly giving chefs the tools to produce more than 30 different sauces and salsas in-house every day. Carefully-crafted kitchen templates support a philosophy based entirely around efficiency, ensuring teams can build and execute quickly without compromising quality. A willingness to embrace new cooking platforms and methods of regeneration means its kitchens are not averse to incorporating alternative technology if it means the chain can support its goal of delivering authentic South American cuisine to its customers.
With 500 sites that get worked incredibly hard during peak service periods, PizzaExpress has focused on creating a kitchen platform that promotes operational simplicity and consistency – allowing its trained pizzaiolos to work with fresh ingredients and adapt easily when new menu changes are introduced. Kitchen efficiency supports the chain’s focus on freshness, quality and credible CSR while still supporting the volume demands that its core product lines require. A new set-up at its Oxford Circus site, meanwhile, is set to be rolled out to other locations and will see the kitchen repositioned to take centre stage at the heart of the restaurant, bringing the theatre and authenticity of its pizza-making to the fore.
Taco Bell has got the design of quick-service kitchens down to a fine art, making optimal use of prep areas and specialist equipment to achieve ultra-high levels of productivity. International growth has enabled it to experiment with kitchen layouts that differ to its traditional US set-up, with the UK very much flying the flag for open-plan design. A string of UK openings within the past year has demonstrated Taco Bell’s ability to successfully blend core prep and hold equipment with new innovations, particularly around beverage, to deliver value and consistency for customers. Its front-of-house systems are programmed to interact with the kitchen so that customers can add, adjust and remove any ingredient they want, providing genuine real-time customisation.
With more than 85 restaurants to its name, TGI Fridays is well-versed in building kitchens that can serve up classic American fare during extremely high volume periods. Over the past year it has invested considerable time looking at how it can use the latest preparation equipment to ease the workloads of its kitchen teams. The trial of Hallde prep machines in 15 restaurants has already shown that it can save approximately 15 hours prep per store every week. The focus on labour saving has also extended to other parts of the kitchen, including the cookline, where the chain has rolled out Synergy Grill, which has delivered improvements for the business in terms of energy consumption, functionality and cleaning.