Ritchie goes wild on Chester Zoo project

Ritchie Catering Equipment helped to turn Chester Zoo into a wedding and events venue.

Stoke-on-Trent-based distributor Ritchie Catering Equipment has just completed a major kitchen project for Chester Zoo.

Since January the dealer liaised with the zoo to create a catering concept which was a step away from the venue’s normal offer, as MD David Ritchie revealed: “With 3D design we were able to showcase our designs and demonstrate our thinking in terms of kitchen equipment planning and layout.

“We always look at how a site will operate on a day to day basis, from deliveries coming in, to how food is prepared, held and served to the customer. It is important for us to understand in depth the needs of a site to ensure we can deliver a design that will suit them now and will also future proof their investment.”

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Chester Zoo’s new direction encompassed becoming a venue for events and weddings. Ritchie detailed: “To enable them to do that we needed to take a fresh approach and tap in to our expertise in the gastropub kitchen design sector and function catering experience to make the best use of space, with defined working areas to keep the kitchen food safe during operation.”

The distributor considered many equipment manufacturers and assessed their suitability against the brief, choosing Blue Seal for the cookline, Rational combi ovens, Foster refrigeration, Inox Fabrications, Hobart Ecomax warewashers, Gamko bottle coolers and Hoshizaki ice machines.

Ritchie commented: “We always choose to work with companies who we know can deliver products to suit our brief with the back-up of an excellent service department. Selling a unit to a company who wants and needs that unit is the easy part, the most important part as we see it is how that company backs up that piece of equipment in the event of an emergency. After-sales support is key to us when choosing the manufacturers we deal with.”

As to the scheme’s main challenges, he revealed: “Working with Chester Zoo meant that all of our deliveries to site needed to be time sensitive to the many thousands of visitors and more importantly the animals that live there. This made co-ordination a little challenging at times.

“We also had to adapt our fabrications to suit a gas pipe installation that needed to feed the whole site; our team were able to modify this unit quickly so as not to cause delay to the project.”

And indeed the scheme was completed on time last week and to budget.

According to Ritchie: “This project showcased the knowledge we have built up over the years designing kitchens for busy gastropubs. We have been able to use our experience in this field from working with many large groups to ensure that we have provided a kitchen that fits the budget and brief perfectly.

“We were also able to react and tweak our elements to suit service demands on site and have worked with the sub-contractors and builders to ensure that our communication enabled them and us to deliver a project that we can all be proud of.”

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