When a seasonal spike in business provided an opportunity for Drake & Morgan to triple its sales recently, its biggest fear was buckling under the strain of demand. FEJ hears how utilising the latest food warming solutions helped the restaurant chain to coast through what could have been a very tricky period.
As any hardened foodservice operator will know, when you’re really up against it and the pressure is on to meet unusually high levels of demand, you absolutely need the equipment you use to stand up and deliver. Without access to kit that you are certain won’t let you down, the prospect of stretching your kitchen to the limit can be an unnerving one.
No period better illustrates just how much difference the availability of innovative foodservice equipment can make to a fast-growing restaurant operation than Christmas, when most operators are rushed off their feet with full tables and extra bookings.
Drake & Morgan is one restaurant chain that is well aware of the challenges of coping with a seasonal spike in demand and when it was faced with that prospect at the end of 2015 the group was forced to look carefully at viable equipment solutions to help it manage the situation.
It is also a great holding cabinet and we need less resource than we would if we didn’t have it — up to three staff members less”
Over the Christmas period alone, the volume of covers that the chain served almost tripled and, according to the chain, it would have faced a tough time processing so many orders had it not been for the support of supplier Thermodyne. Drake & Morgan has been procuring Thermodyne food warmers through distributor Advance Group for a number of years in order to solve capacity management issues and this time was no different as it sought to both increase capacity and table turns.
“We go from achieving net sales on food prior to December of around £500,000 per month to £1.6m during the festive season,” explains Rob Mitchell, executive chef at Drake & Morgan. “To facilitate the increased footfall, we have a lot of pre-booked packages which take more of a banqueting style. Christmas for us is huge — we go from 400-500 covers a day to around 1,500.”
Using the Thermodyne solution, Drake & Morgan’s chefs were able to prepare dishes before peak service and increase kitchen efficiency in the process. Through gentle conduction, patented ‘FluidShelf’ technology maintains each shelf to temperatures within 1°C, preserving textures, colour, natural juices and nutrients. Product yield greatly improves with high volumes of food suspended at serving temperature without any drying, shrinkage or quality issues.
Mitchell says that when it came to betting on Thermodyne, it knew the equipment could deal with the kind of ramp-up in volume it was talking about. “To be able to efficiently service these numbers and run a smooth operation, we need an intelligent capacity management solution, which is Thermodyne,” he says. “It is a lot safer too because food is at the right temperature. We cooked lamb overnight, which was deliciously succulent in the morning ready for the day’s service. Thermodyne is also a great holding cabinet and we need less resource than we would if we didn’t have it — up to three staff members less.”
Mitchell admits that without the Thermodyne solution, the quality of its offering is likely to have suffered during that busy period, which subsequently could have had a negative impact on business. “It is important for me and my team that we are able to get ahead and Thermodyne allows us to do this,” he says. “Without it, we would have issues with cold food and customer satisfaction would fall. I’m very proud to say that we didn’t have a single complaint about our food during the festive period to head office and I do have to put a great deal of that praise firmly at Thermodyne’s door.”
The festive season for 2016 is a long way off, but when it does eventually come around, Drake & Morgan will face no trepidation about handling the extra demand that it brings.
Property search set to spawn new projects for growing chain
Drake & Morgan is on a mission to ramp up the number of sites it operates in the UK, so much so that it recently appointed an experienced industry veteran to oversee the search for new properties. Marcus Brownlow, who grew Coffee Republic’s network from 30 stores to over 100 and also worked at Compass, has been brought in to build on the eight units that it currently operates and oversee the acquisition of new sites both in London and regionally.
Brownlow’s most recent role saw him as head of acquisitions at EAT, one of the UK’s leading fast-casual cafés where he oversaw a move to a new head office while also performing a full strategic review of the company’s sites to maximise sales and increase brand presence.
Drake & Morgan intends to open a bar and restaurant in Edinburgh in 2016. It also plans on opening two or three more sites outside of London, with the rest emerging
from the capital.