TGI Fridays’ entry into the click and collect space is making the business think carefully about how it might optimise its kitchens when the market reopens, its head of food and drink has said.
With restaurants closed to dine-in customers until at least July, the American-themed chain is now offering click and collect and home delivery services through almost half of its 85-strong restaurant estate.
Speaking to FEJ in a recent Zoom chat, exec chef Terry McDowell said its kitchen teams were adapting well to the different challenges that delivery brings, including working with a streamlined menu.
Asked if any sort of reverse engineering of its kitchens might be needed should the company continue with delivery once restaurants are back open, he said: “The short answer to that is, yes. It’s actually something what we’re starting to think about. From a productivity perspective, [it’s about] making sure that we can service everyone in the right way.
“I think [the situation] is making everyone look at everything at the moment. I think there is some equipment out there that can help us do that and I think there are some processes, with technology, that can help us do that. We’ve just got to be smart, embrace technology and look at equipment.”
Mr McDowell said the move into delivery had “almost flipped everything on its head” for the chain.
“Where we were a restaurant that did a little bit of delivery, going forward I couldn’t honestly say what those percentages will be but I think we need to prepare ourselves for that different world.”
TGI Fridays operates what it calls a ‘Red Mat Theory’ in its kitchens – the idea being that each chef should be able to stand on an imaginary mat and produce a dish from their station without moving.
Does that concept lend itself to a delivery scenario, or has it made things more difficult?
“Having something like that as a working principle actually helps you and it’s made all of us think in a slightly different way in regards to how do we do more of that. The fact that we now use two or three different cheeses instead of seven means the team doesn’t have to go and restock the station.
“We are using the same refrigeration and the same area of storage, but we can have more of the same product on there, so actually it means they have to move less to do the sale. That’s quite a good thing so we are just using more and more of the same product across the board.
“We don’t want them moving, we don’t want them crossing over. We have set up a one-way system where our kitchens allow, so you go on to line one way and if you have got to cross over the other chef will move off and then go back round. Things like that, which we thought might be a challenge, our team have embraced because they understand the importance of it.”