McMullen & Sons food development manager Lee Brooks has just celebrated 10 years with the pub chain.
In that time, the 130-strong family brewer’s menu offer and kitchen investment programme have evolved considerably. But one thing that hasn’t changed is his view that state-of-the-art kitchen equipment is only as good as the support backing it up.
My biggest bugbear is breakages – when things break and there is no support or anyone you can get hold of,” he says. “I know you can’t stop it, but things should be built to last and sometimes we pay an awful lot of money and things are just not reliable and end up being out of action for a long time.”
Most food-led operators in the pub sector run an all-day menu and want the peace of mind that if a piece of equipment suddenly goes down, there will be a quick remedy.
Said Mr Brooks: “You want an engineer, you want help, you want to be able to contact someone that can point you in the right direction. I appreciate that it may take time to get parts for some things or whatever, but when we’ve bought product we shouldn’t need to wait too long because generally you can ship things up and down the country within 24 hours.
“And 24 hours without a key bit of kit is a challenge – and let’s be honest it always breaks on the weekend! If we lose a key bit of kit for a whole weekend that has a major impact on our sales and our customer experience because we then have to offer a reduced menu or a compromised menu.”
Supply chain issues in the foodservice equipment sector have been well-documented this year and this has certainly made operators look closer at the support infrastructures in place.
Mr Brooks said that McMullen’s that it would be unlikely to take on new suppliers without the guarantee that any issues can be fixed quickly.
“I need to know that there are spares available in the UK – even more so now. I need to know that if it does break – and I am not saying nothing’s faultless because things do break – that I can get it fixed and get the kitchen back up and running as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.”