With almost 60 locations to its name and revenues of £120m, Hollywood Bowl Group is the largest ten-pin bowling business in the UK. And, like most leisure operators, food and beverage is a rapidly growing revenue stream that it can’t ignore.
The company has been embarking on an ambitious national investment programme to boost its facilities, including a restaurant offering based around a classic American diner.
It recently completed a £250,000 rebrand of a site in Wigan, the ninth investment project that the firm has carried out within the last 12 months.
The Wigan refurbishment saw its food and drink offering upgraded with the installation of a brand new Hollywood Diner, which is serving a newly-developed menu featuring gourmet burgers and hot dogs, thick shakes and signature desserts.
While paying punters are seeing the fruits of Hollywood Bowl Group’s investments at the front end, behind the scenes work has also been going on to provide its kitchen operations with the infrastructure they need to fulfil demand and expand food sales.
That job falls on the shoulders of food and drink operational support manager Michelle Sims. Her role is to work with the centres and suppliers to ensure it delivers on its objectives and challenge better ways of working if improvement is needed.
“Food and drink is a growing category within our group and a continual focus for development to improve our offering to our customer,” she explains. “Our key drivers are speed, quality and consistency which form part of the brief when looking at any new fixed assets or products.”
A recent focus of the chain has been energy efficiency, which led to it approving Rexmartins as an authorised supplier for induction fryers following a three-month trial at a Hollywood Bowl site.
Its tests demonstrated the performance and energy benefits of the induction fryers compared with traditional gas and electric models.
Sims was curious to evaluate the energy savings which could be achieved with the induction fryers as it complements the company’s business culture of promoting sustainability.
“During the trials, we found the Rexmartins induction fryers delivered excellent quality fried food within the tight timeframes needed to keep pace with peak demand. Compared with our existing fryers, they cooked faster, gave excellent crispy results and were easier to clean,” she explains.
She says there are clear cost and operational savings to be made from switching over to induction. “The fryers consumed 50% less energy than our existing models and generated less heat into the kitchen, making for a more comfortable working environment. We also found that oil life was doubled.”
Simplicity drives success and our food menu is engineered around the kit we have across our centres”
Rexmartins offers four induction fryer models: single and twin tank versions in either counter top or floor standing designs.
Powerful induction generators create heat directly across the base of the fryer tank. This, combined with highly accurate temperature control, delivers energy savings and extends the working life of the oil. And as there are no heating elements in the oil, the induction fryers are easy to clean.
Such features provide value for a business such as Hollywood Bowl Group, which ultimately wants to know that when it puts a piece of equipment into a kitchen it is going to be hassle-free to manage and perform in the way that it was specified for.
“We look for equipment that is easy to manage and maintain,” explains Sims. “Simplicity drives success and our food menu is engineered around the kit we have across our centres. We predominately serve burgers, hot dogs and snacks and sharers.
“Speed, quality and consistency is the focus in every kitchen along with standards and safety. Providing our teams with efficient, easy to use equipment that is cost-effective and brings a benefit to the consumer and the business is a goal.”
Sims remains focused on enhancing the kitchen set-up across the group and has an active interest in developments that help to prolong the lifecycle of products and reduce wastage. She will promote revisions of kitchens where required in order to ensure they are fit for purpose.
“Where there is a business case to introduce more economical equipment, we will. We will continue to evolve though further trials and technology that best impacts on our service goals.” Like the bowlers that occupy its lanes in search of a strike, the group has its eyes firmly on the prize.
Food spend spikes on back of menu development work
The roll-out of the company’s Hollywood Diner menu last year underpinned an increased food spend per game of 5.4%. A new drinks menu, adopting feedback from earlier trials it carried out, helped bar spend per game to grow by 7%.