The sudden closure of commercial kitchens presents facilities managers with a multitude of important challenges to overcome, says Kate Gould.
The pandemic caused many commercial kitchens to shut down overnight, forcing catering operators to down utensils and close the kitchen doors, with no warning and little time to properly prepare.
The process for a controlled temporary closure of a commercial kitchen involves a multitude of tasks including:
- Emptying the refrigerators and freezers;
- Draining oil from the deep fat fryers;
- Flushing clean water through appliances such as dishwashers;
- Pulling out appliances; and
- Deep cleaning equipment, walls, floors and gullies.
In addition, the doors of the chillers and cooking equipment should have been left open for fresh air to circulate before the kitchen was closed. All of this takes days rather than hours and unless the correct protocol has been followed your facilities may not be fully functional when you come to reopen.
Prepare for reopening
It is vital that a catering equipment survey is carried out before the operation is remobilised. Now is the time to inspect the kitchen and undertake a deep clean.
The equipment must be tested to make sure that it is safe and fit for purpose. What action should be taken if some appliances are found to be faulty or beyond their useful life? Repair or replace? Do you have the warranty and maintenance records to support an informed decision?
If the answer is to replace a piece of equipment should you choose a like-for-like model or a more sustainable alternative? This begs the question: will you be able to provide the same food and beverage services that you did before the social distancing rules were imposed?
Re-evaluate your facilities
Are your facilities aligned with necessary changes to the food and beverage offering? New menus, product offers and social distancing regimes will have a huge impact on the facilities required to support future catering operations.
The good news is that there is a chance to reduce capital expenditure and operational costs by seeking a solution that best suits the continuing needs of your business. Once a business strategy is in place for the delivery of the catering services you will be able to accomplish the following:
- Reduce the amount of equipment you have, which in turn will reduce utility and ongoing operational costs;
- Reduce the footprint of the catering facilities, releasing space for other activities;
- Reduce capital expenditure by transferring equipment across sites, replacing appliances that are beyond their useful life with equipment that is surplus to requirement in other kitchens; and
- Improve energy efficiency, sustainability and energy cost savings by sourcing replacement equipment with better life cycle costs.
The secret to all of this it to identify three key components:
- How the new catering services will change from the pre to post-Covid 19.
- How the existing facilities can be adapted in line with predicted demand.
- Re-evaluate your associated catering equipment, utility and operational budgets.
- Deep clean kitchens;
- Commission a catering equipment survey;
- Establish the shape of the new catering services and how this differs across multiple sites;
- Formulate a step-by-step approach to develop the desired kitchen facilities; and
- Implement an equipment replacement and procurement strategy.
Kate Gould is managing director at KEG Catering Equipment Evaluation Services