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Get the most out of temporary kitchens

17 April 2008
Get the most out of temporary kitchens

A temporary kitchen is a necessity for events such as music festivals, and it can also fill a need during refurbishments at more permanent sites. Stuart Ferguson looks at what's on the market and outlines the practical considerations

Emergencies such as fire damage aside, temporary or portable kitchens lend themselves to a multitude of purposes and scenarios, everything from event catering to kitchen refurbishments.

The style of kitchen can vary greatly depending on your needs, from a gas-powered burner and frying pan, ideal for cooking in a tent, up to a custom-built catering complex incorporating bratt pans, combi-ovens, six-burner ranges, walk-in refrigeration and dishwashing facilities, lending itself perfectly to, well, just about anything.

In recent years we have seen a steady rise in the number of music festivals being held around the country, drawing large crowds with big-name bands such as the Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys. The daddy of them all has to be the mud-fest that is Glastonbury, and when Sausage and Mash Café group S&M got in on the act last year it knew it needed a kitchen capable of turning out loads of top-notch food from the middle of a muddy field. It turned to temporary kitchen specialist Container Kitchen Systems (CKS) for help.

"We've had a huge increase in demand for temporary kitchens for open-air rock shows," says CKS managing director Mark Kingston. "Lots of them are being used to feed the VIPs and performers, who, I guess, want something special to keep them going."

At Glastonbury, S&M was feeding the staff and crew the wholesome English fare that it serves in its London restaurants, but the same rules applied: whatever the conditions, food safety is paramount. "Because the kitchen was totally self-contained, S&M could be sure that it was complying fully with food safety regulations," says Kingston.

CKS supplied a specially modified kitchen fitted with two big 24-grid combi-ovens, two large griddles and a six-burner range. Capable of producing hundreds of meals in short order, and with plenty of room for two or three chefs to work comfortably, the kitchen was also equipped with an extraction canopy, under-counter fridges, stainless-steel tables, a double-bowl sink unit, fly killer and everything you'd want to find in a commercial kitchen, even though it was in the middle of a very mucky field.

In response to the demand for hot, fresh food to be provided in primary schools, another company, PKL, has developed the KitchenPod, a modern, hygienic school kitchen complete with essential catering equipment packaged in an efficient, easy-to-install building pod.

KitchenPods are available in three standard designs with a choice of catering equipment layouts. Once you have chosen what you need, PKL carries out site surveys, site preparation, linking in to the existing school building, delivery and siting of the KitchenPod, plus connection to services - and comprehensive equipment training for staff.

One school that went down this route was Avon Valley in Rugby, Warwickshire. "The school was destroyed by fire in 2004 and has since been redeveloped as a series of mobile units, including a mobile kitchen," explains Karen Linaker, of Warwickshire County Council.

The kitchen houses a variety of prime catering equipment, including a counter-top convection oven and six-burner oven range, to provide the flexibility to cook dishes such as cottage pie, home-made pizzas, pasta bolognaise and chicken fricassée for 1,000 pupils.

If you require a subtle exterior that blends in to an existing building, then the KitchenPod's Chameleon finish needs to be seen to be believed. The process is achieved by taking a digital photograph of the building. PKL's design team then uses this to create an image that will be architecturally in keeping with the style, and the image is transferred on to the vinyl slip covering which is then applied to the exterior of the KitchenPod. Genius.

It's not only the very young who require a good, solid meal on a daily basis the elderly do as well. Last year's £15,000 modernisation project at Brompton House care home in Broadway, Worcestershire, run by BUPA Care Services, meant the kitchen was out of action for more than three weeks. But there was still a need to cater for up to 60 residents and guests with a varied menu of fresh, nutritious food, taking into account special dietary and cultural needs.

Dawson Rentals' Companion unit, which, at 4.6m x 2.9m and 3m high, is the smallest of the company's range of temporary kitchens, came to the rescue. It features a compact cutting-edge design with interchangeable equipment, including a six-burner range, double oven, double-basket fryer, salamander grill, upright fridge and freezer. Its compact size makes it easy to deliver to inaccessible locations, and caterers can start using it within just one hour of delivery.

A spokesman for BUPA said: "Without the mobile kitchen we could not have undertaken this essential work. Not only were we able to continue providing our residents with three meals a day, plus drinks and snacks, but we continued to meet our residents' individual dietary needs without interruption."

Long-term renting can be an affordable option for outlets that either don't have a kitchen or whose kitchen simply can't cope with the demand put upon it. The kitchen proper can always be enlarged later but if you don't need to, you haven't spent huge amounts unnecessarily.

The cost of hiring is based on several factors, including size and internal specification the minimum period the equipment is to be hired for the delivery location of your site whether you require a damage waiver or prefer to provide your own insurance for the equipment while on hire and whether you require engineers to connect the equipment to services.

You will need to organise a water supply and power to the kitchen and a point for waste water to be run to. If you've ever been caravanning in the New Forest, then all of this will be familiar.

One other consideration is planning permission. As requirements for planning permission vary, you would be strongly advised to check with your local council before making any orders.

Key maintenance points

• Temporary kitchens are subject to the same legal requirements as all commercial kitchens in respect of building regulations, fire codes and food hygiene legislation. Make sure the supplier offers the necessary assurances over health, safety and hygiene.

• Equipment in temporary kitchens, just as in any normal kitchen, can break down. To prevent issues from the outset, make sure your staff are familiar with the temporary equipment they will be using. Suppliers will offer training as part of their installation package, usually upon delivery. This might be the day before the chefs are required on site, however, so careful planning is necessary.

• Check what you are covered for in terms of emergency repairs in the event of a breakdown. Temporary kitchen suppliers should ensure the equipment is delivered to you in a clean and well-maintained condition, and they should also offer a telephone helpline for queries. Check also what the response time is to breakdowns.

If the operating period is too tight to benefit from a call-out, you might want to build some spare capacity into your temporary facilities to cover you for all eventualities.

Source: Serviceline (01438 363000)

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