With more than 350 properties, including historic houses, castles mills, inns and even islands, under its wing, and 19 million visitors a year through its doors, the National Trust knows as much about multi-site foodservice retail as any high street brand. The charity’s food and drink offer have come a long way over the decades and today it encompasses far more than just afternoon tea and scones. Last year alone, catering generated £11m in profit for the National Trust.
Without those funds it would find it much harder to look after the places in its care, which puts extra pressure on Matt Drew to make sure the right catering equipment is chosen to maximise revenues. Fortunately, it is a highly organised ship, as he explains: “The National Trust introduced a Catering Design Code two years ago, which provides operational guidelines for counter and kitchen design, equipment standards and specifications and customer flow. The Design Code ensures that the right equipment is used for any investment in catering facilities in order to produce and serve the appropriate style of menu. Despite our properties all being unique, we need to offer a consistent quality and sufficient range of food and drink, and therefore we work with eight different menu structures, each supported by a counter design and equipment list.”
While the National Trust’s ideal operational layout and equipment list fits into a neat rectangular space with no columns, it very rarely works out that way given many of its operations are located within historic buildings. That’s just par for the course, says Matt. “Each project and property requires a certain degree of flexibility in terms of the layout and equipment without compromising our ability to trade at peak times and provide a great experience for our visitors.”
When planning refurbishments and selecting equipment, three key boxes have to be ticked: ease of use for staff, energy efficiency and lifecycle cost. That last one is particularly significant, seeing as it is about so much more than just the capital outlay. “The whole life cost is always an important consideration,” says Matt. “It has to take into account the lifespan of the equipment, maintenance costs, operating costs, reliability, purchase price and the disposal or recycling costs.”
“We have introduced a Catering Design Code that provides operational guidelines for kitchen design”