Franco's gets some TLC
Evolving from a gently efficient breakfast venue into a charged lunch atmosphere, becoming an elegant, romantic destination by evening, Franco's is something of a split personality.
Surrounded by boutiques, private clubs, art galleries and hotels at the St James's end of Jermyn Street, the eatery is a hub of activity all day long, with imaginative combinations of flavours, textures and aromas of Italy created by passionate head chef Stefano Turconi.
Time, however, takes its toll and, by 2005, the winner of Imbibe's Wine List of the Year 2010 was badly in need of some TLC. Initially adjoined by a coffee shop, which shared the kitchen facilities, the layout of the restaurant also needed some serious attention to make better use of the space available.
Director and company owner Jason Phillips said: "The restaurant had been around for a long time and needed some life breathing into it," he said. "There was also a lot of wasted space, and, as trade increased, this only served to make daily operations that much more difficult.
"We turned the coffee shop into a bar café area, which is now popular with locals looking to escape the pace of the city, to sit and read the newspaper with a cappuccino or glass of wine. By opening it all up, it's much lighter and brighter with an art deco feel."
Merging the coffee shop and restaurant enabled Franco's to meander between English and Italian options throughout the day, making the most of every meal occasion possible.
Franco's now serves around 80 'serious' English fry-ups from 7.30am, up to 140 traditional Italian dishes at lunchtime, followed by proper English afternoon tea with scones.
The pre-theatre and evening menu - averaging 100 covers a night - are exclusively Italian fayre, from vitello tonnato with poached apple and raisins to turbot with wild mushrooms, samphire and artichoke purée. Authentic ingredients are key, including burrata - an Italian mozzarella known for its creaminess and richness - and Sardinian suckling pig.
The last phase in a five-year refurbishment was the installation of a new kitchen in January. "The old one was a bit of a wreck, so we completely stripped it out," said Jason.
"We had a modular cooking suite in there, which you could move around to clean, but it was old and a lot of time was spent with it inactive while it was being repaired. "We needed greater reliability and took the opportunity to see how else we could improve our operation."
Contract Catering Equipment (CCE Group Ltd) specialises in bringing the latest kitchen equipment products to the attention of operators and worked with Jason to research the options.
Jason was swayed by the Montague Legend heavy duty cooking suite from Imperial, comprising a pasta cooker, two twin Bullseye ranges with ovens, open star fired burners, ambient work surfaces, flat top griddle section and chargrill section, featuring a Legend wall grill with ambient storage cupboards below.
"With an increase in the volume of business, we needed additional firepower, which is what we got with the Montague suite. One chef said he was getting up to 250 degrees before, but with the new fired burners, he is reaching 400 degrees, cutting the time it used to do many tasks.
Once chef commented: "I would get to work at 8.30am and it would take just under two hours to do my mis-en-place and sauces. With the new burners, I was finished in 45 minutes. Everything's cooking that much faster, taking less time to reach the critical temperature, which is great for our overall efficiency and energy costs. Time will tell just how much."
Andy Wood, business development manager at CCE explained: "When looking at Jason's requirements for robust, time-saving and reliable equipment, Imperial's Montague suite stood out as the best for the job. The lifetime warranties offered on the doors - which are put under tremendous strain during every service - show great confidence in the equipment's durability."
A refurbishment or refit also gives restaurant owners the opportunity to include new features and customer-focussed entertainment elements, according to Mintel, as well as providing a chance to market and promote their new developments2.
In Franco's case, the new Montague Legend ovens have brought a whole new sense of live theatre to its private dining, available in either the beautifully appointed, 100-capacity dining room or a smaller dining room that can accommodate up to 50.
"Our private events and parties side is something we are expanding on and anything that creates a sense of occasion is good for business," said Jason. "Because the new ovens are much, much deeper, we can now get a whole suckling pig in there, which can be presented in a banquet-style rather than as slices, so you can see the animal in its entirety. This has brought an element of live theatre into the proceedings, which our customers love.
"Back in the kitchen, it means less queuing by chefs waiting for an oven to become free, making the working environment much less stressful. The Montague Legend suite, overall, is reliable, robust, efficient and its doors are guaranteed for life - a far cry from what we had."
Imperial Catering Equipment's sales director, Andy Piggin, added: "Imperial's award-winning Montague range has been developed with 150 years of specialised manufacturing experience behind it, so it is the highest quality commercial cooking equipment.
"More and more of the UK's top chefs are now spending time in the US, where Montague is seen as the best, and the range is fast becoming the equipment to use in top class kitchens back home. Montague will also custom build, design and install to the exact specifications required, giving chefs their dream kitchen."
Imperial's Montague range includes heavy duty ranges and counter equipment, custom island suites and high volume convection ovens. The Montague portfolio offers unrivalled quality with designs that are both classic and simple, with flexibility and rigidity to withstand even the toughest kitchen environments.
- 2011 survey of 2,500 international travellers by Hotels.com, listing the world's favourite foods
- Mintel - The Theatre of Eating Out - UK - April 2009
For further information, visit www.imperialrange.co.uk or call 01509 260150. For more on Franco's, visit www.francoslondon.com and for Contract Catering Equipment, visit www.contractcateringequipment.co.uk or call 01268 412121.
This case study was provided by Imperial and Hatco