It’s not often that a catering equipment distributor submits a kitchen design which goes unchanged by the client, but that’s exactly what happened when HCE Foodservice Equipment began working with the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) on London’s exclusive Pall Mall.
The RAC required a new open plan kitchen to update the compartmentalised space it previously had and improve the workflow. Putting the project out to tender in summer 2016, the club was so satisfied with HCE’s submission, it plumped for this option with no revisions.
The man behind the design was project sales manager Mike Bridger. “It rarely happens that there are no changes to a design, but mine seemed to blow the RAC out of the water,” he recalled. “I followed the brief to create an open plan kitchen using modern efficient technology for large scale banqueting. The design eliminates cross routing of staff and products.”
The Eastleigh-based distributor helped to specify top of the range equipment that could provide meals in a variety of cooking modes. For instance, MKN’s FlexiChef multifunctional unit could replace a kettle, bain-marie, tilting pan, pressure cooker, deep-fat fryer and stove, providing large quantities of food in swift time, while Exclusive Ranges’ Menu System Premium cooking suite uses energy efficient induction technology and features jointless stainless steel work surfaces for easy cleaning, with the upper part of the suite constructed from a single piece. Bridger added: “The kitchen has been designed using induction cooking technology to keep heat output down and to enable fast and professional cooking in a demanding area.”
Refrigerated storage and preparation equipment were situated along the inside perimeter walls, including Adande refrigerated drawers, Foster Refrigerator’s energy-saving hydrocarbon cabinets, and sister firm Foster Coldstores banquet coldroom – which holds jackstacks and plated meal trolleys. HCE situated this near the lift, for convenience.
Two upright Rational combination ovens were selected to compliment the stove activities, while the kitchen has the latest UV extract and ingress island canopy ventilation with the provision of fresh air replacement being introduced.
The majority of meals for banqueting are pre-prepared within the normal working day, where they are transported using Victor Manufacturing cabinets to the banquet kitchen, then refrigerated until service times and then reheated as necessary in the banqueting ovens.
HCE also helped to specify Meiko’s UPster K with a built in heat recovery system that reportedly saves 9kW of electricity per hour. Furthermore, the chosen Granuldisk pot washer features heat recovery too.
The distributor also fitted high density racking to maximise storage, hygienic hands-free taps for hand basins, enzyme dosing units for grease free drainage issues, blast chillers to work with Rational trolleys – meaning no double handling, and high quality stainless steel fabrication including cantilever sections over fridge counters with drawers.
But one stumbling block for Bridger and his HCE team was actually installing the equipment in a difficult-to-access area. The lift down to the kitchen was only 1.3metres by 1metre and so most of the equipment had to be taken down the stairs.
“It was a massive challenge,” Bridger commented. “The equipment not only had to go upstairs to get to the main part of the RAC building but then had to go down two flights of stairs. The cooking suite came down in separate parts but the MKN FlexiChef was one large unit and we actually had to computer-generate how we could transport it.” Even though the calculations had all been digitally made, he still doubted it would fit until he physically saw the boxes make it through.
The installation was completed in around 8 weeks over the summer, with the distributor working in close concert with the project’s builder to merge their two construction programmes in the most convenient way possible.
The project finished on time, ready for the grand re-opening on 19 September, but as Bridger recalled, one element was in use ahead of that time. “The RAC Club requested to use the coldrooms 2 weeks early because in the meantime it had rented out refrigeration, so it was easier for the staff to use the coldrooms.
“It was a bit of a challenge but we were able to do that. There was a point where chefs were walking in taking trolley-loads of food in and out when builders were still on site with hard hats and high visibility vests. But there was a great deal of tolerance from the catering staff – they worked without the kitchen for 8 weeks while it was all being gutted.”
He is proud of fulfilling the original brief of creating a clean open kitchen with modern, energy-saving technology. “It was a good job all the way through,” he concluded.