Earlier this year pub group Marston’s outlined a programme of expansion that will see it open dozens of new sites with a firm emphasis on food. Recent financial reports hail its “transformational growth” in food sales to over 30 million meals each year, while some of the 1,600-strong group’s pubs can now boast a food sales mix that is close to 60%. It is an impressive story, but one which may never have developed to the extent it has had it not been for a major rethink in kitchen specification two years ago. That led to the company sanctioning a major overhaul of its current kitchen design spec, and the results have been spectacular.
“The major changes we made were to refrigeration and the cook line,” explains Colin Mackenzie, head of corporate services procurement at Marston’s, who says the company switched from three different refrigeration manufacturers to Foster due to the durability and efficiency of its products. It also did the same on the cook line, consolidating around Lincat and its Opus 700 range. “The stand-out point on the cook line was the Opus 700 fryer, which is a very energy efficient piece of equipment that produces less exhaust gas heat in the kitchen and faster recovery times,” says Colin. “Added to that was an option for automatic filtration of oil which, when combined with energy savings, provided payback in nine months. None of these changes resulted in a cost saving on the purchase price — quite the opposite in fact, for example the fryers we specify now cost over three times more than the previous units, but the key to it is total life cost.”
Colin is part of a wider team that oversees kitchen specification and he is quick to pay tribute to energy manager Chris White, head of kitchen and people development Jane Breddy, and group facilities manager Andy Kershaw for the vital roles they play in this process. All have gone to great lengths to ensure new specs are up to the scratch. “We had to satisfy ourselves that the measurements were all correct to justify the ongoing investment and to do it properly you can’t rule out crawling around the floor taking gas metre readings with stopwatch in hand as we did in our test kitchen!” he says.
“The fryers we specify now cost over three times more than the previous units, but the key to it is the total life cost”