Punch Taverns says it won’t specify catering equipment unless it can truly meet the full breadth of its menu needs and provide a level of adaptability that supports a seasonally-changing food strategy.
The company, which owns around 1,300 pubs, continues to develop its food offering and admits the equipment it uses must be as functional as possible to “fix and flex” menus as and when required.
Chris Webb, catering operations manager at the chain, says the approach is to keep things simple so that it can easily add different dishes to the menu without making a specific piece of equipment redundant, which has happened in the past.
He explained: “The key criteria is how many dishes on the menu can you utilise that bit of kit for. If we are putting a chargrill in just to do a pork chop, we wouldn’t do it. We’d have to ask ourselves are we going to change the menu to all chargrill meats and really get the most out of that bit of kit? We have been looking at Thermodynes but actually we don’t have the volume in any one site, in my opinion, to warrant them so we have put that on the back burner for now.”
Punch provides menu templates for its retail partners, which are designed to allow them to serve a range of on-trend and popular pub dishes with the kitchen set-ups they have in place.
“We try and stay away from specialist equipment that is only used for one thing,” said Mr Webb, who was speaking at the recent Commercial Kitchen show. “The only variation is that the template varies by the volume of food that’s predicted, so it might be three fryers versus five fryers, and more refrigeration, but other than that they are pretty simple kitchens. And we find that works best for us.”
One of Punch’s biggest considerations when it comes to ensuring a pub kitchen is operationally efficient is how much labour it will take to work that kitchen – not only at peak times but at quiet times of the week.
“If you are using an island suite you’re going to need three or four chefs in there to get around it, so we look at the ergonomics of the kitchen as well. At quieter times you can actually reduce your labour but still deliver the food, that’s quite a key point for us. And space again is a factor — shoehorning kitchens in is unfortunately what you have to do when you are dealing in pubs.”