Pom Bear May 19

Open for Business

In our May/June edition of Take Stock we told you how The Fish Bar in Crewe has an open kitchen where customers can watch potatoes being peeled and chipped. As more businesses opt to show the customer how their food is prepared and cooked Take Stock’s Rebecca Moore argues why more outlets need to be open to the idea…

There was a culmination of events that gave birth to the trend of the open plan kitchen. As the popularity of TV chefs grew, we were suddenly inclined to question the way in which our food was prepared, cooked and plated up. Our expectation level was raised and dining out was no longer purely about the food, it was considered an experience. The new theatre; all of our senses were being flirted with until it all ended with the final crescendo; the meal itself.

Thanks to a combination of technology and a crusade to raise awareness of food that was being mass consumed, there has been a shift in consumer expectations regarding the ingredients in food and how meals are prepared.

“Transparency is the big one,” said Eric Giandelone, director of food research at Mintel. “Consumers expect more information, and they are getting more information. Restaurants need to proactively embrace this new era of openness, not resist it.” 

Giandelone predicted in 2011 that restaurants would embrace the trend of open kitchens as a sign to customers that they have nothing to hide – and in the last 12 months a number of well-known fast food chains have done just that. Jade Swaby, KFC’s creative design manager, said, “We wanted the design to reflect the fact that, unlike many “fast food” restaurants, KFC cooks prepare and make fresh food, from scratch, every day.”

So committed are these brands to proving that they are open to a new, wholesome yet hipster way of life, businesses are spending big money on ensuring the brand image is maintained throughout the entire premises. Pizza Hut have introduced a cocktail bar and their impressive interior design in some flagship premises. They dedicated more than £60 million to make their restaurants more appealing, including the kitchen equipment.

“This is yet another brand wanting to create an open plan kitchen for customers to experience, as consumers increasingly want to see their food being cooked and the process that it goes through. All high street restaurants are now adapting to this trend as they know the honesty and clarity it gives only boosts their brand presence in a competitive market. With the popularity in TV chefs continuing, and our need to watch our food being cooked in front of our eyes, to have takeaway outlets now also jumping on board just goes to show that the power of this design will not be lost to just the staff in the kitchen,” explains John Ellingham, director at Canopy UK, the company responsible for providing the Pizza Hut stores’ bespoke red kitchen ventilation system. Ellingham went on to offer another angle of transparency that open plan kitchens offer: hygiene.

Restaurants that adopt the open plan trend are adding yet another level of the much coveted ‘transparency’, themselves to be conscientious and proactive when it comes to meeting both consumer and regulatory expectations.

The large brands have dominated the direction of fast food and quick service eateries, but should smaller independent restaurants and pubs adopt open kitchens?

Angus Cameron Pride, a consultant to the restaurant, bar and hospitality industry believes it is down to competence. “If you can execute an open kitchen and deliver it to a good standard – quiet communication between chefs, immaculate chef whites, spotless cook lines and extraction hoods, perfect good working practice in food preparation methods – then there will be great benefits to the business. If you’re inexperienced or you don’t have the attention to detail or standards to maintain this 100% of the time then I’d recommend a closed kitchen. Seeing a poorly run open kitchen is far more reputationally damaging than having a closed kitchen.”

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