The kitchens in our restaurants are the engine rooms of the operation.” So says Brian McGeown, new openings operations director at the Casual Dining Group, owner of Bella Italia and Café Rouge, as well as the recently-acquired Las Iguanas and La Tasca chains. CDG is riding high with a raft of openings and refurbs at the moment, which leaves Brian with the task of ensuring every kitchen is fully equipped to perform as effectively as possible.
“For each new site opening we start with our standard kitchen suite of equipment that has been tried and tested and shown to be fit for purpose over a number of years, and which we know we can use to create the menu range to the standards we require, including quality of the dishes being cooked and speed of service. This kit fits into a template determined by the available square metres and zonal areas for key sections of the workflow. We do, of course, have to take into consideration utility supplies and drainage when configuring new kitchens.”
Other key factors to consider include storage of stock, including chilled, frozen and dry stock; and the wash-up area, where it has to look at access and drop-off by waiting teams, and the operational flow and storage of clean crockery. CDG’s organic growth schedule for Bella Italia and Café Rouge is hectic to say the least. 52 major refurbishments will be completed on its existing estate within the next six months and 30 new restaurants will open within the next 12 months. The acquisitions of La Tasca and Las Iguanas take the group’s UK store footprint to 280, making it one of the most formidable privately-owned casual dining businesses in the industry.
With new kitchens popping up left, right and centre, CDG will lean heavily on the specifications that have served it so well thus far. Ease of maintenance, robustness and efficiency — “we’re always reviewing our kit to ensure it’s as energy efficient as possible”, says Brian — are all key criteria, along with an emphasis on the cooking process. “The kit must enable us to produce the required outcome and ensure high quality food every time, and help us meet our service timings and range of menu dishes. It must also be able to withstand repeated, heavy use and require limited maintenance,” concludes Brian.
“The equipment must enable us to produce the required outcome and ensure high quality food every time”