Category Archives: Case Study
If you venture deep into the heart of Cheltenham, you will find a hidden gem in the form of the Manor By The Lake. This exquisite Victorian mansion is located within seven acres of award-winning gardens and is a visual delight.
Picture perfect for any kind of celebration from corporate away-days to lavish weddings, the Manor By The Lake has a few tricks up its sleeve. Behind the intricately carved oak panels, ornately painted ceilings and marble fireplaces lies a pulsating and busy kitchen.
“We installed Rational ovens when the venue was converted five years ago as we had limited space. The building is also Grade II listed which brought with it restrictions on equipment usage. The ovens suited us perfectly in terms of providing an arena to produce our dishes. But once a month, Rational uses our venue as a Cook Live demo site.”
“80% of our core business is weddings, so on the days without events, we are able to accommodate the training staff and also learn more about the capabilities of the ovens ourselves,” he comments.
Because of the versatility of the Rational ovens, Norbert and his staff are able to offer total precision to guests. “Consistency is key,” continues Norbert. With upwards of 200 guests at a wedding, it is vital that all of the food choices arrive at the same time and at the correct temperature. The pre-programming function of the Rational ovens makes this possible every time.
Maintaining the Quality
The Manor retains AC Services (Southern) to monitor and maintain the equipment on a yearly contract. Sometimes, things go wrong such as a recent problem with a door. But as Norbert explains, AC Services solved the problem and a new part was ordered and delivered overnight. “Obviously things can go wrong in a busy kitchen but any problems are quickly and efficiently sorted.”
In the first year of opening, the Manor By The Lake covered 60 weddings ; last year for all events the total produced by the Rational ovens was 24,000 covers.
Norbert puts this down to the venue’s attraction as well as the ability of the kitchen to produce what the client wants. “We pride ourselves on delivering the client’s culinary requirements,” he continues. “The versatility of the Rational ovens allows us to cater for the current trends in diversity when it comes to food.”
Manor History Provides Venue
The Manor By The Lake began life as Arle Court, built between 1854-1858. In 1904 Arle Court and its contents went under the hammer in a two-day sale and was bought by a Herbert Unwin, a Yorkshire businessman. During the 1950s, Arle Court stood empty until it was purchased by Ealing Studios as headquarters and film location set.
In 2010, the Manor was put up for sale again and was purchased in 2013 by Tammy Madge and Michael Chittenden. They restored the Manor back to its former 1858 glory with enhanced facilities to create an exclusive use venue for weddings, special occasions and business functions. All of which makes it a truly picture perfect venue in which to serve high quality catering consistently.
Actually, he loves them so much that he has two in the main kitchen of his restaurant, one in the sandwich kitchen, one in the pastry kitchen, two in the wedding venue and one in the farm shop.
Lowden Garden Centre is located in Shaw, Wiltshire and exemplifies everything that a garden centre needs to be to be sustainable. Among the plants, flora and fauna can be found the main restaurant which serves locally sourced quality produce all day.
The farm shop acts as the restaurant’s larder packed with the freshest local produce, alongside the Lowden butchers and the brew store with its carefully sourced wide range of craft beers and cider, all brewed within 10 miles of Lowden.
The newest addition to Lowden is the events marquee, the ideal venue for any occasion, for weddings, parties, private events, funeral reception, business conferences and exhibitions.
“I have been using Rational ovens for many years having first acquired one 13 years ago,” explains Jonathan. “I was overwhelmed by its performance and capacity. As the garden centre has grown, it was a natural conclusion that I bought more Rational ovens to cope with the demand on our chefs.”
Attract the Best with the Best
The garden centre employs eight chefs and Jonathan is firmly of the belief that the Rational ovens were the major factor in hiring the best.
“In an industry with so many top class chefs, businesses need an edge to attract the best and providing them with the optimum cooking facilities is a major advantage,” he continues. “We alter the menu daily and on a day to day basis, we serve over 100 breakfasts and lunches as well as 250 Sunday lunches. Reliability and performance are priorities.”
Taking the Sunday lunches as an example, the Rational ovens allow the chefs to prepare and cook the meat and vegetables for the lunches in sequence for a full three and a half hour service, with all food piping hot and cooked to perfection throughout the whole lunch period.
Of course, the problems come when and if the ovens break down, but Jonathan has it covered. “We have now taken out one of AC Services(Southern) excellent packages for biannual servicing,” he comments. “If anything happens to any of the appliances between services, the company is simply a phone call away. Swift service, swift solution, no down time. The service spots any small problems, down to a broken light which gives us peace of mind that the ovens will continue to function perfectly.”
With a turnover in the millions, the Lowden Garden Centre is constantly upgrading and innovating, with the family’s younger generation becoming involved in marketing and daily running. “The garden centre concept has evolved from merely a place to buy perennials to a day out,” concludes Jonathan. “We provide first-class, locally produced catering for our customers to enjoy on-site or to take away.”
What happens to a Rational oven when you leave it outside over Christmas? Simple, AC Services comes along, picks it up and repairs it! That is what happened to Nick Beardsley, joint owner of the Cotswold Food Club. Nick runs the Old Fleece, the Old Lodge, Fostons Ash and the Britannia, all pubs located around the Cotswold area.
Due to a major power surge just before Christmas, the main motherboard on the SCC WE 101 electric Rational oven at the Old Fleece was damaged and the chefs were unable to use the appliance.
Being a critical piece of equipment over that period, Nick had no choice but to replace his prized oven with a temporary one which led to the Rational oven being left outside. A quick call to AC Services and the engineers turned up to assess the situation.
“We assumed that the cold and the outside environment would have damaged the oven beyond repair but as it turned out, the engineers were quite happy to take it away.
We were delighted when we were told that it could be repaired and we could have it back,” explains Nick. “It was even better news for our chef who had been moaning about the quality of the replacement being inferior to the Rational model.”
The Old Fleece
The family-run venue is located between Stroud and Nailsworth and is a 250 year-old former coaching inn. It has been run by the Beardsley family for 25 years and Nick’s son, who was actually born in the Old Fleece, has recently taken over as manager.
The pub caters for numerous events, from staff parties to corporate lunches with chef, Aurel serving up a variety of food either from a set menu or bespoke. He is particularly noted for his Sunday roasts with the pub full at the weekend with hungry customers eager to try his food.
All pubs and hotel belonging to the Cotswold Food Club are set in historic buildings offering high quality, locally sourced food and drink in a relaxed and friendly environment. The group’s own farm in Woodchester supplies a limited amount of lamb and Gloucester Old Spot pork and venison, supplemented from farms in Gloucestershire, therefore offering only traceable, free-range meat.
“We were so pleased to get our oven back in perfect working order,” concludes Nick. “However, we were more impressed with the service offered by AC Services.
Unlike our previous maintenance contractors, the company turned up with everything on the van that might be required to repair the oven and then took it away when it was clear that it needed attention.
We have an adhoc contract with the company so we just paid for a single call out and we are extremely happy with the outcome.”
If you require information about our services and maintenance packages, call AC Services (Southern) on 01454 322222.
In May 2017, she expanded her company, the Pudding Kitchen from producing her products in the family home into a converted milking parlour and took possession of her biggest asset: a Rational electric SCC WE 61 oven. It was, she readily admits, one of the best decisions she has ever made.
The Pudding Kitchen began from an idea Rachel had 20 years ago for her own little cottage industry making puddings. In 2011, the dream came to fruition and Rachel opened the Pudding Kitchen for people to buy homemade cakes and puddings to eat for themselves or pass off as their own.
The company’s expansion to new premises gave Rachel the opportunity to purchase a new oven and having taken the recommendation from a renowned chef and one of her best customers, she attended a Rational demo with an open mind. The capabilities of the Rational oven convinced her of her need and as luck would have it, an ex-demo appliance became available.
“The initial installation wasn’t without its challenges,” confesses Rachel. “The appliance needed some work to get it into full working order and AC Services rose magnificently to the task. The engineers cleaned and tweaked it until it was fully operational and I couldn’t be happier with it.”
AC Services On Hand
AC Services have been a constant for the Pudding Kitchen and its progression. From a major incident where a power surge took out the oven, the fridge and freezer to repairing small faults and supplying cleaning materials, the company has kept the new oven performing to its capacity.
“The value of AC Services is that they employ real people who know my history,” continues Rachel. “Regardless of the fact that I am a relatively new customer, they are willing to come out at a moment’s notice to check the appliance. Once the warranty on the oven is up, I shall take out a maintenance programme with AC Services so that I can have peace of mind, knowing that should anything occur with the oven, I have full support.”
The Pudding Kitchen’s cakes and puddings are legendary in Somerset. Customers can choose from a number of cheesecakes, such as the silky coffee cheesecake topped with Italian meringue ‘froth’ and chocolate sprinkles or walnut and butterscotch cheesecake, with chopped walnuts throughout. The ginger and mango flavoured cheesecake is infused with warming ginger and swirled throughout with mango, all sitting on a ginger nut base and topped with tiny pieces of ginger stem.
Citron tarts are made with fresh lemons, free-range eggs and locally produced double cream, encased in all butter crispy pastry with the pear and chocolate tart featuring poached pears and shards of chocolate “nestling under a blanket of frangipane and almondy loveliness”.
Roulades come in amazing flavours, such as the beautifully rich, tangy lime and cream filling encased in a light as air meringue, topped with almonds for a crunchy finish and passion fruit and seasonal berries, a meringue roulade filled with vibrant tasting passion fruit curd, fresh cream and seasonal berries.
The company also produces individual puddings and maintains a presence for its homemade desserts in North Somerset at the Midsomer Norton Farmers’ Market.
For details on AC Services Southern and how we can help your catering company with your Rational and Frima equipment, call us on 01452 322222.
Today they win a number of awards for their pies, which are available in a range of sizes and flavours from traditional steak and ale or kidney to the more exotic Bombay chicken or Chinese duck and cherry.
Jon Thorner’s Bridge Farm Shop in Pylle, Shepton Mallet produces thousands of both savoury and sweet products every week from the kitchens.
Head chef, John Emery is in charge of the kitchens and his saving grace is his ovens, two Rational models both of which he swears by. “We bought the first 11 years ago then as the business expanded and demand for our products became greater, we invested in a second model four years later,” he explains.
He readily admits that without them, the shop would not be able to maintain the output: currently they are used 24 hours a day, six days a week. “We only close them down on Friday until Saturday morning, when they are cleaned and made ready for the next shift,” continues John.
A local of Somerset and with a background in farming and butchery, Jon Thorner’s legacy began by providing quality locally sourced meat and since 1979, the shop has grown exponentially to produce pies, quiches, savouries, ready meals, desserts and cakes. Each pie is still hand crimped and individually filled and the awards have flooded in, with accolades from Great Taste, British Pie Awards, Taste of the West and Smithfield Awards.
Quality and provenance are the key words when it comes to sourcing the meat, with the company only using certified West Country beef, English free range pork and British poultry, and whenever possible, sourced locally. Many of the suppliers to the Bridge Farm Shop are located within 10 miles of the shop. It doesn’t get more local than that! The company also offers pre-packed meat as well as ready meals, most of which are cooked on the Rational ovens.
“The most important element in kitchen equipment is reliability,” says John. “We have an arrangement with AC Services (Southern) to have the ovens serviced on an annual basis. We also have a contract for ad hoc services, which means if anything goes wrong unexpectedly, then an engineer will be dispatched immediately to help us. To be honest, there is little need for this service, but we have encountered slight problems with limescale-related issues that the engineers have been able to sort straight away.”
The Bridge Farm Shop has an enviable reputation and maintaining the quality of the food is paramount. “Whether we are baking pies or quiches or cakes, the Rational ovens provide perfect results every time and we fully expect them to continue to the same standard in years to come,” concludes John.
Sometimes we have to go above and beyond the call of duty and for Kevin, a senior engineer at AC Services (Southern), a passing enquiry saw him catching a flight to Barcelona and spending a night on a luxury yacht.
The story unravelled a week before the Bank Holiday weekend in March, when MD Helen Hagger took one of the company vans home. A neighbour expressed an interest in the logo on the van and when Helen explained that the company was the service partner for Rational for South West England, the neighbour became even more interested. Lee Marshall is head chef on a 60m private yacht . He is familiar with Rational ovens as he was having problems with the 6-grid Rational cook station on board the yacht.
According to Lee, “whilst cruising from the Seychelles to Italy the oven decided enough was enough and stopped working. I had contacted Rational international but they were unable to help as I couldn’t access the service area of the oven. On my return to the UK, I was informed that the Italian engineers (Rational) wouldn’t attempt to service/fix the oven unless we pulled it out of the galley and on to the hard stuff, which is something that wasn’t going to happen as it weighs a ton!”
The upshot of the conversation was that Lee asked Helen if she could help find out what was wrong with the on-board oven. And the logistics of solving the problem on a floating boat somewhere off the coast of Italy began! Being Bank Holiday, there were few engineers available at such short notice for a foreign trip. But when he mentioned that the yacht would be travelling to Barcelona the following week, a resolution became more likely.
USB and Passports
Helen provided Lee with a Rational usb stick to download the HACCP and service data. This would give him a pointer as to what was wrong with the oven. Lee rang in on the Monday morning and engineer Jon talked him through how to download the data.
It became apparent that a physical diagnosis was required so Helen asked both senior engineers if either of them would like to go to Italy or Spain. Despite the lack of a passport, Kev volunteered. The essential passport was fasttracked a few days later and in the meantime, Kev liaised closely with Lee.
With Helen away on holiday and with a limited phone signal, the onus was on Kev to solve the problem. On her return, Lee was still adamant that he wanted AC Services to sort out the oven, despite Rational service partners being available in both Italy and Spain. Helen’s return to work on Tuesday saw estimates of the cost of the repair including Kev flying to Barcelona. The captain of the yacht gave the go-ahead, the flights were booked and all the parts required were sourced and packed.
Fast Track Service
By Friday morning, the oven was under repair, with on-board engineers helping Kev to get the oven out to gain access to the left hand side panel. The problem was quickly and efficiently solved. By lunchtime, Kev was finished and free to take a look around the yacht and a browse around Barcelona. He even had time to take in some rays on the beach before he flew back the next day.
Lee is now delighted with his fully operational Rational oven. “Helen was very positive and after she contacted the office I was put in touch with Kevin, one of the engineers. He asked all the right questions to ascertain the fault and what he might need to fix the problem. I highly recommend the services of AC Services Southern and will undoubtedly use them again.”
Just half a mile from the world famous Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust lies the 18th century Tudor Arms Lodge and Freehouse, a noble name for an establishment that truly lives up to its heritage.
Dating back three centuries, the building began life as a licensed beer and cider house for the Irish Navigator Soldiers who dug the nearby Gloucester to Sharpness Canal by hand. Today, it still serves a range of beers and alcoholic beverages to locals and visitors alike.
Country Pub of the Year
The fully-licensed premises is a family-operated freehouse, and has frequently been awarded CAMRA’s “Gloucester Country Pub of the Year”, but it also offers bed and breakfast accommodation as well as a sumptuous range of food served throughout the day.
In order to provide such tempting delicacies as garlic roasted breast of chicken on a bacon and mushroom sauce with crispy leeks and choice of potato, not to mention the full English breakfast available to guests, the Tudor Arms relies upon its Rational SCC Electric 101 Care Control oven.
“We installed the oven seven years ago,” comments general manager, Richard Sims, “and we are still as delighted with its performance now as we were then!” The freehouse has an ad hoc arrangement with AC Services (Southern) when it comes to maintenance.
“Obviously we get the required service as part of the maintenance programme, but we use AC Services when and if we have a problem, and although these are few and far between, it gives us great peace of mind to know that the company is at the end of a phone should something go wrong,” continues Rich.
“We turn around a couple of thousand covers every week, which shows how busy and popular we are. We not only get the loyal local trade but we also get visitors to the Slimbridge sanctuary which keeps us extremely busy particularly in high season. So our oven needs to be fully functional at all times. We can say with all honesty that the service is excellent.”
The Tudor Arms also boasts a large meeting hall which is ideal for conferences or meetings and its charming exterior invites guests from far and wide.
“The Tudor Arms is just one of our long-serving customers who use us on an ad hoc basis,” comments Helen Hagger, MD of AC Services. “Having purchased the Rational oven from one of our trade shows seven years ago, the Tudor Arms saw its potential for large-scale catering and with our backing and support 24/7, the premises are assured that the appliance is always in perfect working order and should anything go wrong, we are only a phone call away.”
You won’t find fast food or fruit machines and there isn’t a coffee chain of any denomination anywhere in sight. Instead, you will find home cooked meals served in a RIBA award-winning building that is light years away from traditional service stations.
Gloucester Services is the newest addition to the Westmorland Family of businesses. It is also behind the hugely successful Tebay Services in Cumbria, which brought locally-sourced produce to the M6 in 1972. The Westmorland Farm Shop opened in 2003 and in 2015, Gloucester Services was opened officially by HRH Prince Charles. The ethos is simple: the produce is local, seasonal and the food is home-cooked.
Billing itself as a farm shop and kitchen, the services rely on its kitchen appliances and for help and assistance 24/7, the management employs AC Services (Southern). “We chose AC Services as it is a local company with fair and reasonable pricing and it was highly recommended,” comments a spokesperson from Gloucester Services. “Our values lie in customer service and AC Services are prompt and highly efficient.”
Gloucester Services operates a 24-hour quick kitchen offering stews, pies, soups and salads plus sandwiches and cakes and fair trade tea and coffee to take away. The sit-down and takeaway meal range includes homemade soups, hot meals, a healthy deli counter and salad bar, home baked cakes plus fair trade tea and coffee and freshly squeezed fruit juice.
The Westmorland family is renowned as a food business. And Gloucestershire and its neighbouring counties offer quality and an abundance of their food produce. All food served in the Kitchen is made fresh on site every day. The lamb and beef come from surrounding farms, chicken and eggs from local producers and plentiful regional seasonal produce. Weary travellers on the way to the southwest are treated to a service station with the addition of an old-fashioned butcher. They are greeted by meat on the bone hanging for three weeks and traditional cuts of meat alongside seasonal specialities like sweetbreads and game.
Visually, the services are unrivalled which adds even more attraction to the millions of motorists who visit every year. Two huge tree trunks cut from the neighbouring Forest of Dean are suspended from the ceiling in the entrance of the building, which is clad in Cotswold stone.
The roof is covered in grass, giving it an architectural uniqueness that has resulted in the venue receiving many awards and achieving a BREAM Excellence category.
The 2016 RIBA Award judges said: ‘Motorway services are not supposed to be architecturally meritorious…to that end Gloucester Services is a glorious failure and most definitely provides a destination that serves a grateful public who may, or may not, be just passing. This is building that reinvents and reinvigorates the type.”
Helen Hagger MD at AC Services is delighted with the success of Gloucester Services. “The family ethos at Westmorland echoes our own values. We are passionate about serving the local community and are proud to be part of the team chosen by Gloucester Services to deliver excellence in all aspects of serving the public.”
The prospect of the ovens failing at Lambrook School is too serious to contemplate so as a precaution, the school uses AC Services (Southern) under a pre-arranged maintenance agreement.
Twice a year, the Rational gas ovens – one a SCC WE101 model and the other a SCC WE 201 model – are serviced and should the school require any ad hoc attention, then AC Services are on hand to deliver!
Lambrook is a thriving independent school which is home to 510 boys and girls plus 100+ staff. The Lambrook experience combines first class teaching and superb facilities with traditional values, in the idyllic, tranquil surroundings of the beautiful Berkshire countryside.
According to Sophie Connery, the Catering Manager of the school’s external catering company, The Brookwood Partnership, the relationship with AC Services is utterly essential to the smooth running of the kitchen. “When we first starting using Rational ovens at Lambrook School there was a maintenance company on call, but AC Services came recommended from Rational and we haven’t looked back since.”
Sophie admits that there are few major things that go wrong, but the small little niggles can sometimes be just as annoying. “It really doesn’t matter what the problem is, large or small, AC Services come out and see us. We had noisy dry heat burners and the engineers were sent out immediately,” continues Sophie. “The beauty of AC Services is that nothing is too much trouble and the engineers have fully stocked vans so there is never a delay in waiting for parts.”
The Rational ovens are obviously used on a daily basis. “The appliances are completely reliable but no-one can foresee some of the variables that occur. The school operates five days a week as a day school with Saturday school for the senior pupils. Boarding at Lambrook is very flexible and enables children to board anything from 5 nights a week to 1 night here and there which means that there is no downtime for the ovens. With the help of AC Services, we make sure that the ovens are always kept in the best possible condition.”
Attitude is the one other thing that puts AC Services top of the list as far as Sophie is concerned. “It doesn’t matter when we call, what we need or how far the engineer is from us,” concludes Sophie, “from the ladies in the office who take the call to the engineers, there is always a friendly voice or a smile and service is exemplary.”
Lambrook School has an exemplary record academically and as far as cuisine goes, the food is top notch! A good chef and a good Rational oven maintained by AC Services is the winning combination!
An independent family run public house, it is now owned by James Prangell, whose vision to renovate the pub that had been closed for several years has been hugely successful.
One of his aims was to offer food, but having no existing kitchen, this was no easy task. Undeterred, he took a look at the assets and targeted an old garage. After extensive refurbishment, this became the kitchen, linked to the restaurant via a walkway.
Second Hand Oven
His first purchase, and in hindsight, perhaps his best, was the oven. According to James, it had to be Rational. “We got a very good deal on a second-hand Rational SCC101 which was perfect for our requirements,” he explains.
“Being second-hand, we were slightly concerned about its condition and performance but our fears were ungrounded. In the past two years, it has proven to be invaluable.”
On advice from AC Services (Southern), James has the appliance serviced regularly twice a year. In the meantime, should anything need attention, then he calls out the company on an ad hoc basis.
“We cannot afford for the oven to go wrong, as we rely upon it for the food that we produce on a daily basis,” he continues. “So we use AC Services as and when we need them to ensure the appliance is always working at its optimum capacity.”
Food on the Table
And the menu on offer is extensive: fresh, locally sourced ingredients go into homemade dishes ranging from light lunches, evening meals, daily specials or Sunday roasts.
Enjoy a trio of mixed beetroot salad with apple and Somerset goats cheese, duck liver pate, gooseberry chutney and toast or Brixham Bay mussels cooked in garlic and shallots, served with crusty bread.
Main courses include haddock cooked in light beer batter with proper chips and chunky mushy peas or summer chicken with mushroom sauce, courgettes and jersey royals. Or go overboard with an 8oz West Country Sirloin with wild mushroom, tomato, garlic butter and proper chips!
“We have a reputation built up over the past two years of excellent cuisine, superb hospitality and a friendly environment,” concludes James. “The lynchpin of our operation is the Rational oven without which we would be floundering. It just goes to prove that even second-hand, Rational is the best choice for cooking a range of food and for the Hollybush Inn, it’s the ideal choice.”