Dirk Wissmann is a man who knows exactly what he wants when it comes to foodservice equipment. “The ideal equipment is something which is easy to clean, meets food safety requirements and is simple to operate — we obviously don’t want to introduce something to our stores that makes the operation more complex,” he says. Having served with Pret A Manger for 16 years, Dirk is a true company stalwart who has played a key part in facilitating the British sandwich chain’s prolific growth. Last year Pret made a £76m profit on sales of nearly £600m, while its store count surpassed 300 in the UK and 400 worldwide. Pret has standardised its back- and front-of-house operations with equipment that has proved its value over the years but, with so many stores to its name, any new additions to the kitchen estate have to be carefully project-managed. The introduction of a new smoothie menu last year saw a major roll-out of Hamilton Beach blenders, which meant it had to amend counters and implement the new appliances into stores.
Dirk and his team have also worked hard to create perfectly-customised workstations for its hot food chefs, arming them with all the tools they need to carry out their work. Its next priority is to look at new hot holding solutions to enhance the operation. While the first roll-out of new kit is always an exhilarating time for any equipment manager, it is just as vital to make sure that mission-critical equipment is running to its optimal levels. In Pret’s case, cold storage is key. “We are using quite a lot of refrigeration because it is important to keep our stuff fresh. We pretty much get daily deliveries, so we need a decent-sized walk-in fridge and sufficient upright fridges.”
It isn’t only Pret’s UK kitchens that Dirk and his team are entrusted with. Pret’s international ambitions are well-documented and the lessons it has learned in the UK food-to-go space will undoubtedly prove invaluable as it looks to crack markets such as North America. “I am focusing a lot on our shops in the US and the business in the US to bring us in line with what we are doing over here,” reveals Dirk.
“Equipment needs to be simple to operate — we obviously don’t want to introduce something to our stores that makes the operation more complex”