Ritchie takes on prestigious Wedgwood project

You would assume that the tableware supply would be no problem at the forthcoming World of Wedgwood visitor centre in Stoke on Trent.

However, the firm still needed kitchens for the new onsite restaurant and tea room, and so called in nearby Ritchie Catering Equipment to design and install catering areas fit for this prestige brand.

In fact, the distributor was originally asked to tender for the £250,000 (plus staff kitchen value) project alongside four other companies. After its initial presentation and quotation, the field was pared down to two and finally it was awarded the contract after a second presentation, where it provided examples of other larger schemes that it had brought in on time and on budget.

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MD David Ritchie detailed: “I believe that we were chosen because of our ability as a company to offer pricing and service to the standards of a national supplier while still retaining the identity of an independent family business.”

Jointly taking on the project management with his colleague Jane Hopkinson, Ritchie was tasked with providing two very different working kitchens. Firstly the tea room kitchen had to be fully electric, specifically designed to provide a menu to the tea rooms, including afternoon tea service. Then the main food and beverage kitchen was required to have gas equipment installation with a production area and central cooking station. This had to be able to provide up to 150 meals a sitting.

The main consideration for the distributor was the ability to work with Wedgwood and the main building contractor. Ritchie’s provided all of the services including electric, gas, water and waste. It also installed the wall finishes, the canopies and walk in chillers, as well as the kitchens themselves.

However, the project was not straightforward, as the scheme in general was running overtime when the dealer began its installation in May. A tight 4 week timeframe meant that Ritchie’s had to work hard to keep to the schedule – even having to reschedule its fit-out period several times.

There were various issues to overcome, such as that the ACU drain had been installed too high in the main kitchen before the distributor had started its work. “This meant we had to raise the floor by 40mm and the flooring itself had to be changed from safety flooring to resin flooring,” recalled Ritchie. [[page-break]]

“We worked around this by finishing the first area, and then working earlier and longer hours after the floor had set. We had to organise all of our engineers to work together to keep to the schedule – at times we had white wall fitters, plumbers, electricians and catering engineers working a as team. As soon as the white wall fitters had finished a wall, we were second fixing the plumbing services and the electrical services. As they tightened the last screw, our catering engineers were installing a fridge or a fryer.

“It was a good example of our project management capabilities, that by organisation and planning, the different groups could work together with a common aim: to finish on time.” And they did indeed keep to schedule, finishing the kitchens in mid-June ready for the World of Wedgwood’s grand opening in July.

Other challenges were that there were several additions and variations requested once the install had begun. “We had to redesign a couple of areas due to building works that left us with no option but to do so,” said Ritchie.

For example, in the tea room kitchen, the distributor had to move the cold room over to avoid a main SV drain, which impacted on the preparation and dishwash areas. “We quickly saw this and after consultations with the client we redesigned to fit,” Ritchie detailed. “We worked with the client to provide solutions wherever they presented themselves.”

Furthermore, the main building contractor provided a couple of drain points and distribution boards, while Ritchie’s ran all the services and finished the walls with heavy duty anti bacterial white wall finishing, including thermo formed corners which provide an easy to clean and dirt resistant surface.

The project highlight for Ritchie has been “to see essentially an empty, industrial shell turn into highly efficient and fit for purpose catering areas”.

These areas were fitted with equipment including Rational ovens. “They are the market leader and the only combination ovens that we work with,” said Ritchie. Prime cooking appliances were provided by Blue Seal. “Its Evolution brand is reliable, can cope with heavy duty usage and is also easy for any engineer to work on over time,” noted Ritchie.

Hobart provided all warewashing equipment, and Ritchie’s continued its close relationship with Foster Refrigeration, using the firm to provide all of the cabinets and also four walk-in chillers and freezers. “In our opinion Foster is the market leader and of course it’s great that it’s a British manufacturer,” Ritchie said.

Wedgwood has been so impressed with Ritchie’s work on this project that it has already asked the distributor to provide a design and the equipment for the staff restaurant kitchen, as well as all of the associated small wares for the kitchens. A definite achievement for a local company that is thinking big.

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