Oakman Inns chef director Ross Pike says it’s been necessary to “turn some kitchens upside down” as it prepares to reopen for business after the three-month lockdown.
Mr Pike has spent the past two weeks planning how the kitchens of its 20-plus estate will operate under Covid-secure guidelines.
That has included numerous risk assessments, equipment testing and maintenance – even removing bird nests from ventilation systems!
“We’ve come back to some kitchens that don’t look all that great. They haven’t been used for a long time but it’s amazing how dirty things get just sitting dormant for a couple of months. There is a lot cleaning happening in the next couple of days,” he said.
As well as specific kitchen markers to remind staff about social distancing and visible PPE such as face visors and gloves, chefs are going to have to get used to system changes in the interim.
“It’s probably going to take them a week to 10 days to get used to their new environment,” said Mr Pike. “We’ve been doing Zoom meetings for the last couple of weeks with the head chefs, just to try and get mentally ready to go back and to [discuss] what they can expect because we have literally turned some kitchens upside down.
“Where they used to have four passes, we’ve now reduced that down to one, so there is only one central pick-up point in the kitchen. There is going to be a lot of system changes they need to get used to and not one of our pubs is the same, so we have had to go into every pub and go through the whole motion again.
Mr Pike said many of the changes it is making are down to offering a reduced menu.
“We’re going to be moving to A3 menus, which will be put down in front of a customer when they sit down. Once that customer has used it that menu is going be thrown away. So just coming down from a book menu, which we normally have, to an A3 paper has already cut my menu down by 40%.
“Once I knew the size of the menu I took that into the kitchen and did a time and motion on every dish. With dishes where there would be cross-over from one person grilling it to the next person cooking it, we’ve now arranged it so that each section basically does each dish from start to finish. We’ve obviously tried to keep as many of the favourites on as possible, but there are some dishes that have had to come off for the time being.”
If the government allows pubs and restaurants to open on 4 July, as is widely expected, Oakman believes it will be able to get at least 90% of its business up and running.
“We’ve tried to walk through every single step like it’s a new business and I think that’s how we need to because it’s not your old business anymore, it’s a new operation, and we have got to make the best of what we’ve got.”
Mr Pike was speaking during the latest episode of Market Talk, which also featured Jestic’s Richard Norman. View the full episode below.