Anybody who walks into a Las Iguanas restaurant can’t fail to be struck by the exquisite mix of colour, texture and tones that creates an atmosphere perfectly matched to the passionate Latin American style of cooking that it has become known for. The chain has grown to become one of the stars of the casual dining market during the last decade, with its kitchens cooking up dishes that pulse with native Latin American, Indian, Portuguese and African influences.
As the chain has steadily expanded to more than 40 stores, from Plymouth all the way up to Aberdeen, it has become vital for it to develop a back-of-house set-up that can scale with the business and deliver the consistency to reinforce its brand identity. “A lot of work has gone into developing the kitchen template,” explains project manager James Hicklin, who has been with Las Iguanas for a year and prior to that built up considerable industry experience during long spells with both Inventive Leisure, owner of the Revolution bar chain, and Pizza Express. “Our head training chef Vikas Agarwal has worked alongside [distributor] Sprint Refrigeration to achieve a design that we can replicate site-to-site. Pretty much all our food is prepared fresh, so getting the layout right is paramount.”
Speed of service is important for any casual dining business and with the company keen to maximise front-of-house space where possible, Las Iguanas has worked hard to assemble the right set-up. As always, getting certain aspects of the kitchen right has been more gratifying than others. “The pass is an important feature that has taken time to get right,” says James when asked to cite the innovations that have really made a difference to the efficiency of the operation. “The Unox combination oven has also made life a lot easier for the chefs as it’s very versatile and gets great results.” Las Iguanas will now embark on the next stage of its development as a sister brand of Bella Italia and Café Rouge following its recent sale to the Casual Dining Group.
“A lot of work has gone into developing the kitchen template. The pass is an important feature that has taken time to get right”