Customers walking through the doors of any of KFC’s refurbished stores this year may have found themselves questioning whether they were in the right place. Textured brick-effect interiors, exposed walls and contemporary artwork have given its outlets a much softer and more welcoming appearance that has dovetailed perfectly with its decision to introduce semi-open plan kitchens. But transforming the back-of-house operation to the very heart of the restaurant doesn’t happen overnight, which is exactly where Mark Baxter and his operations and procurement team come in.

They have gone about designing and specifying the kitchens in a completely new way, moving it from an experience-led decision-making process to one that is far more scientific. “We have put in some math principles and engineering principles in terms of a capacity model and process flows so that we become a centre of excellence for making factually-based decisions on the efficiency of the lobby and kitchen,” reveals Mark.

On top of that, the team have risen to the challenge of designing a semi-open plan kitchen template that delivers the same volume and capacity as KFC’s existing set-ups, but for less CAPEX spend on equipment and over a smaller footprint. The gains made over the past year show that it can now build a typical drive-thru restaurant with an average 10% CAPEX saving on equipment, as well as achieve a 15% space saving on a typical kitchen build to create additional customer space.

Working with key suppliers, such as Middleby, TurboChef and Manitowoc the company has assembled a highly optimal operating model, while new breading machines, thermalising ovens and holding units have contributed to an improvement in product quality. And when you consider that KFC operates 870 stores in the UK — 220 of them company-owned and the rest franchised — any major call on catering equipment potentially has ramifications on a mass scale. The pace at which the QSR sector is evolving has left KFC well aware that as its menu mix changes it can’t necessarily deliver new food choices on a kitchen designed six or seven years ago. As a result, says Mark, “the redesign of the kitchen is important to us to support the strategic growth platform of the business.”


“we want to become a centre of excellence for making factually-based decisions on the efficiency of the kitchen”

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