Kitchen design has changed enormously in recent years. In fact for anyone designing a kitchen space at sports and leisure venues there are more considerations involved than ever before.
Where do you begin when designing a kitchen space at sports and leisure venues?
David Hones, senior catering designer with design company ABDA, starts, like many respondents, with the basics.
He asks: “What are your key objectives? Do you want to improve throughput? Increase operational efficiency in the kitchen? Modernise an outdated venue?”
Then there’s the budget. It is much simpler, he points out, for a professional to design to a budget, so ensure that he or she has one, and “make a decision on how you want to apportion your budget – what are ‘must haves’ and what are your ‘nice to haves’”.
Simon Lohse, managing director of Rational UK, recommends working closely with manufacturers and designers “to ensure they are specifying the right equipment for their kitchen’s requirements. Designers and customers should visit other sites where the equipment is already in use,” he adds.
Design trends and new products in this area, Hones suggests, tend to emphasise connectivity and the use of smart technology but also sustainability, as well as energy-, power- or water-saving features and functions.
The energy focus is no surprise. As John Whitehouse, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), the voice of the catering equipment industry, says: “The Carbon Trust shows that 82% of a catering appliance’s lifecycle cost is down to the energy used in its operation. It’s madness not to specify energy-saving equipment when planning a kitchen design.”
But, like most other respondents, he also highlights the fact that modern kitchen space is under pressure. “Equipment manufacturers are responding by developing multifunctional equipment and by designing slimline versions of their standard models,” he points out.
That said, equipment investment should also look to the long term. Donald Reid, sales manager, Moffat Catering Equipment, says: “It’s important to not only consider the capital cost of equipment but to also factor in the lifetime running costs…Replacing outdated equipment with the right catering equipment can help caterers cut down on the consumption of energy and resources…The latest trend is towards serviceable and hygienic designs that will stand up to everyday wear and tear,” he adds.
Shaune Hall, product development chef, Falcon Foodservice Equipment, highlights the desirability of “equipment that is easy to operate, program and manage”, not to mention clean – or self-clean.
He is also one of many interviewees who highlight a more aesthetic consideration – the move towards open-plan, theatre-style kitchens. “Cooking equipment is now a key part of the live show,” he points out, one that includes “smooth high-polished finishing, brass handles and shiny stainless-steel surfaces, together with ultra-modern electronic control panels.” However, he adds, “While aesthetics is a key consideration in many customers’ purchasing decisions, they also need to take into account performance and reliability.”
Steve Morris, sales director at Jestic Foodservice Equipment, agrees. Customer-facing equipment, being heavily visible, also needs to be “quick and easy to clean and everything needs to be kept in the best possible condition at all times,” he says. It is also essential, he adds, that a ventilation expert is consulted when specifying an open plan kitchen.
And make sure that everything works. You don’t want a broken-down appliance left unused or being checked by an engineer while customers are watching from the dining room!
Theatre is fine but remember, Mike Hardman, marketing manager at catering and kitchen equipment supplier Alliance Online, reminds us, that customers may also want their food served quickly. “Where fast cooking is concerned, electric and induction options provide the most economical choices.” They also use less energy, he points out.
He adds: “Invest in a good-quality commercial microwave. With new models offering functions such as pre-heat settings and time programming, less well-trained staff can aid in the preparation of more complex dishes, freeing up chefs to use their time more efficiently.”
Warming drawers (to keeping hot food at a servable temperature) and an area dedicated to chafing dishes may also be wise investments.
But make sure you know when customer demand is strongest. In sports venues in particular, Gary Nunn, managing director of professional commercial ovens manufacturer UNOX UK Ltd, points out, “there is an influx of orders before the game and at half-time, which means it is essential to choose the right equipment to cook and hold and regenerate in large quantities, with consistent results. A combi oven can help here”.
And, he adds, as the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium makes clear, modern football supporters demand more than pie and chips, burgers and hotdogs. “With this in mind, one of the most important features on an oven for sports and leisure caterers is the intelligent control panel,” he says, citing the CHEFTOP MIND.Maps range, which offers “fully automated cooking and baking with memory for 384 programmes”.
And speaking of diverse offerings in sports venues, Jonathan Walton, key accounts manager, Vision Commercial Kitchens, says: “Having multiple, functional kiosks is the key to providing good, quick service to customers…but,” he adds, “multiple kiosks throughout a venue make it difficult to provide ventilation for cooking equipment. Therefore, high-speed, ventless cooking solutions are the most cost-effective and flexible option. Multifunctional equipment is also a good investment”.
He adds: “At some events alcohol sales will be minimal and food sales will be much higher and vice versa. Therefore, having flexible mobile pop-up bars is a good option.”
He continues: “Pop-ups and street-food kiosks are popular in sports and leisure venues as they provide more variety in the concessions for food and beverages. At-seat service is also proving to be a popular choice for VIP seats”.
You now have a good-looking, highly functional cooking space – but what about the washing-up? Paul Anderson, MD, Meiko UK, which offers technology for warewashing, cleaning and disinfection, says: “The dishwash must work with the rest of the kitchen facilities to create a smooth-running operation that copes easily with the workload,” but it also needs to minimise labour and encourage sustainability.
For example, “the new generation of integral reverse osmosis water treatment systems uses much less water than a conventional softener-based water treatment system”. In addition, “heat recovery (which recycles waste heat and steam to pre-heat incoming cold water), combined with smaller-capacity wash tanks, can save money and energy in dishwash areas”.
Paul Crowley, marketing development manager of Winterhalter UK, focuses on planning workflow, or, as he puts it: “Working out how to get the dirties to the wash area, then get them back to the service area when they’re clean, is an integral part of kitchen design”.
Energy-saving systems and connected equipment add to efficiencies, he suggests, so seek them out. In addition, he says: “Warewashers can be tailored to a user’s needs. Aim for machines that can be installed in corners to maximise space. It is also important to look for features that reduce the need for additional extraction. Recycling the steam produced in the warewasher during the washing process saves money and improves the air quality at the same time.”
Remember, however, that kitchen design is not a one-person operation. In other words, as John Whitehouse of CESA says: “In an ideal world, all the key players who will be working in the space should be consulted – caterers, chefs, managers, kitchen staff, waiters and so on.”
From managing muck to managing money
Kitchen design is about more than ovens, refrigerators and washing up. Here are a few more areas you may need to bear in mind
• Food disposal
David Hones of ABDA notes the imminent ban on food waste disposal units and advises “ensuring dedicated recycling stations are included at the points of goods in, preparation and also when food is brought back into the kitchen”.
• FOG management
Lee Shelton of The Filta Group, says: “More than 70 per cent of drain blockages within a commercial kitchen are caused by the build-up of fat, oil and grease (FOG) generated from washing pots, pans and plates, blockages, which can cause kitchen closures, rancid odours and unwanted pests… if you are about to take the plunge and refurbish your kitchen, it’s the perfect opportunity to get a good FOG management system in place.”
• Payment systems
Paul Hudson, key account manager for AURES Technologies UK, suggests you bear in mind “speed of service; proximity to the tills (or the corporate hospitality areas); the chance to take orders in advance (pre-paid) so they can be ready for the peaks; and ways to keep the walk-through away from food preparation.” AURES is an IT manufacturer of a complete range of hardware solutions for the international POS market, so it’s no surprise that Hudson adds: “It is essential to be connected ‘real-time’ to an excellent POS system. Usage of tablets and kiosk technology can mean faster connections and the chance for greater accuracy.”
Keep an eye on the ice
How are you keeping your food cool? Malcolm Harling, sales and marketing director, Williams Refrigeration, says: “When considering kitchen design, the style of refrigeration chosen depends on whether cabinets, counters or coldrooms maximise the space available and suit working practices. Another consideration is whether you will be operating a cook-chill system and therefore need a blast chiller.”
Reliability, functionality and aesthetics will also guide fridge choice, but, he says, “wherever possible, position refrigeration away from heat sources such as cookers” and “make sure that units are regularly serviced, with defrost systems and fans working correctly and evaporators and condensers kept clean”.
Harling also suggests you keep a close eye on the temperature of your unit: too high and it may cause food to go off, but too low and you will use more energy and may compromise the food’s quality. Do not leave the doors open for longer than is necessary,” he advises, and, of course, do not overfill your refrigerator.
Similar considerations guide icemaker choices. Adam Byron, national sales manager of Hubbard Systems, which distributes the Scotsman range of icemakers, says: “You need to take into account that there is sufficient airflow around the unit and that the ice machine is not situated next to any piece of equipment that emits heat.”
And there are choices to make as well. Do you want a large amount of ice in a short time frame, paired with a smaller storage bin? Or an icemaker that produces ice steadily throughout the day, combined with a larger storage bin? Or (for bigger sport and leisure venues), a single, high-volume icemaker with an ice transport system?
Paul Jennings, culinary director with sport and entertainment caterer Levy UK, has quite a few useful kitchen design tips – not surprisingly, when he can cite past projects involving large-scale clients ranging from The O2 London to Tottenham Hotspur.
Depending on the space’s main function, equipment levels and the number of hot and cold units required will vary hugely, he points out. You will need to ask yourself some questions, therefore. Can your kitchens function for different types of events? Is there adequate chiller space with a door width that allows for the use of pallets in a CPU environment? Does your kitchen have all of the standard elements, but also allow some flexibility to be able to add kit?
And does your kit reflect the food offer? “If it is a fine-dining menu a cooking range that allows for more individual dish preparation will be necessary, as will the ability to maximise movement from pan to pass,” Jennings says.
By contrast, “if the offer is a short-order concourse menu then planchas, pizza decks, frying suites and hot-holds can deliver high volume and their quick recovery time is vital”.
Make a note of pass placement and wind direction on open units (“this can sometimes cause challenges when trying to keep food hot”) and try to keep the journey from loading bay to pass as clean as possible.
A related requirement will be to minimise the space between the cook line and pass and “always try to walk it through in the planning stage”. And of course, as we have noted, ensure that cooking equipment, chillers, prep stations and equipment storage are all strategically placed.
And don’t forget two important aids to keeping things clean. “Correct levels of lighting are also an enabler to being able to clean down areas properly,” Jennings says, and adds: “Significant thought should also be given to the movement of refuse around the areas and to the central collection point.”