Paul Dickinson is coming up for five years at Fuller, Smith & Turner and it’s fair to say that life rarely slows down for the passionate foodie. Making sure the chain’s kitchens have the kit they need to fire on all cylinders is one of Paul’s primary concerns and that means a continual investment in its equipment estate. More than 70 kitchen projects have been completed in the past four years, while another 30 should be ticked off by the end of this year as Fuller’s strives to raise the benchmark for fresh, contemporary pub food. It is no coincidence that double-digit growth in food sales has followed increased expenditure on its kitchens.
Not so long ago, Fuller’s would budget an average of £40,000 on a kitchen design. Nowadays that figure can be closer to the £200,000 mark as Paul and his team have proved the correlation between reliable, innovative equipment and quality of output. Paul arrived at Fuller’s from Restaurant Associates where, as executive chef, he gained valuable insight into the fine dining and high-end corporate dining markets.
This experience has been applied to his current role and opened the chain up to new brands and methods of cooking. Examples of that include the introduction of Ambach suites to a number of sites in what marks the high-end Italian manufacturer’s first significant UK agreement with a pub chain, and the increase in the use of sous vide appliances in its kitchens.
“In the old days we used to have a very short shelf-life on kitchen kit, whereas now we have got proper chefs with experience who look after the kit and are able to get long-term use out of it,” says Paul, who says he would expect Fullers to get at least 10 years out of some of the core equipment it has invested in. Paul and his colleagues — the food team consists of 12 members, including nine executive chefs — believe that delicious, fresh food can be produced at a reasonable price. But with each property in Fuller’s 200-strong managed pub portfolio proudly operating its own menu, the quality of the equipment is paramount to ensuring that consistently high standards are achieved throughout the group.
“we have got chefs with experience who look after the kit and are able to get the long-term use out of it”