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Kitchens by design: Compass UK & Ireland's Innovation Centre

12 February 2016 by
Kitchens by design: Compass UK & Ireland's Innovation Centre

The new Innovation Centre at Compass UK & Ireland's headquarters in Chertsey includes a brand new Bonnet Maestro cooking suite at the heart of the kitchen. Lisa Jenkins spoke to Nick Vadis, culinary director for Compass Group UK & Ireland, to find out more

Nick Vadis and Doug Thewlis, managing director at Aggora Catering, cooked up the design for the new Innovation Centre and kitchen.

"We'd refurbished the Innovation Centre before, but not on this scale," says Vadis. "The brief was that it had to work as a multi-purpose space and deliver in five areas: food development, staff feeding, commercial product evaluation, apprenticeship training and hospitality."

Kitchen equipment and design specialist Aggora had worked with Compass previously and knew the company's culture. They in turn worked alongside Benchmark Designs (another nominated supplier) to create the front-of-house solution, which incorporated all the lighting design, ambient and chilled counters, serveries and tiling finishes.

Benchmark's brief was to design a ‘showroom' and the three companies worked well together to achieve the overall objective.

The kitchen also had to provide working space for the Compass culinary team to practise and for all parts of the Compass Group, such as Chartwells and Eurest (who were both in the kitchen on our day on-site), to develop their menus.

Food development

The kitchen in Chertsey is the hub for all food development across Compass Group UK & Ireland. Karlene Gaskell, head chef, food development, reports to Vadis and is based there.

Gaskell's team will take a brief from various sectors within Compass and work on the product development alongside the commercial team, using ingredients that are on the Compass-approved supplier list. Gaskell's team will also advise on any new ingredients that may need to be added.

Once a brief has been developed and it is checked that it meets all commercial parameters (retail selling price and gross profit expectations), it is presented at two tasting sessions that are then signed-off by sector and lead chefs. The product is then added to Compass' electronic recipe book, called ‘the Source'.

"Some form of food development goes on every day," says Vadis. "It's an integral part of our success and crucial to us staying ahead of the trends."

Corporate dining

The meeting rooms behind the kitchen are designed to provide daily hospitality. There are two rooms: a private-dining room for six and a chef's table with an optional frosted glass dividing window that seats 24.

There is also an auditorium which seats 50, and various boardrooms and break-out areas across the site. The number of functions will increase and the Innovation Centre facilities have already been used for Compass' graduate awards and a board dinner at the chef's table.

Staff dining/the pass

The staff restaurant feeds 120-160 people per day with the global head office housing teams from legal, human resources, finance, commercial, back office and administration. "Their expectations are high," jokes Vadis. "But we want to push the boundaries, and we have to make our offer as good as, if not better than the high street. It is our showroom and anyone who visits the Compass head office expects us to have a state of the art facility and to be shown something different."

The Bonnet cooking suite

"We went out to a few suppliers to get as close to Nick's brief as possible with the cooking suite," says Geoff Edwards, project manager at Aggora.

Vadis says: "I wanted the suite to house 10 students, to be induction, with grills, planchas and fryers, and I wanted it to mirror itself. We didn't need ovens, so we could incorporate storage under the suite. It had to be reliable, from a company with a good track record, and at a competitive price."

What they got is the largest one-piece Bonnet suite in the UK. The range had to be craned in, swung through the back door, put on skates and then craned into place again inside the kitchen. It weighs 2.2 tonnes. The suite was installed first then covered with a hoarding and the remaining kitchen built around it.

The Innovation Centre

"We present to them, listen to what's important to them, find out their aspirations and dress the Innovation Centre appropriately. The area allows us to bring to life someone else's vision," says Vadis.

"It shows our level of commitment to delivering great food and service, embracing innovation and diversity, and working closely with suppliers. If our suppliers do a really great job, then we function properly and you only get that with great relationships and building on them."

The total cost for the refit and refurbishment of the Innovation Centre totalled £540,000.

Caffè Dallucci

The Caffè Dallucci concept is again about bringing customers' ideas to life. Compass works in partnership with UCC Coffee UK & Ireland to deliver fresh food and great coffee through a flexible in-house solution.

The new pilot coffee concept promotes sandwiches made on-site, with a 'made today, gone today' ethos. It's scalable and could incorporate bought-in products depending on the size of the operation and skill level.

Benchmark worked with Louise Pilkington, Compass Group UK & Ireland's marketing director, to develop Caffè Dallucci, and enjoyed working up the company's first in-house coffee brand.

"The principle is about having great coffee and reflecting the artisanal coffee trend," concludes Vadis.

"It's not always about food - it's about how we operate our relationships with clients, and it shows we're serious about food, our future and our development."

Supplier list

  • Bonnet Maestro Cooking Island, including: 12 double induction hobs, two single-tank, twin-basket fryers, two Chrome Plancha doubles, two rise and fall salamanders and ambient cupboards
  • Falcon Dominator four-ring induction hob with oven
  • Falcon Dominator Salamander
  • Frima Vario Cooking Centre
  • Big Green Egg
  • Electrolux three-door under-counter fridge
  • Six Electrolux two-door under-counter fridges
  • Electrolux two-door under-counter freezer
  • Winterhalter rack dishwasher
  • Winterhalter under-counter glass washer
  • Granuldisk Gastro Pot Washer
  • Chilled counter (Benchmark)
  • Rational SelfCookingCenter 5 Senses (two 10-grid and one six-grid)
  • Two Hugentobler Hold-o-Mat Hot Cupboards
  • Aggora tray feed
  • Foster walk-in fridge and freezer

All the equipment specified and installed was chosen based on versatility, multi-use, reliability, future-proofing, overall energy efficiencies and the creation of a better working environment.

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