Category Archives: Case Study
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.”
Pies are the order of the day at the Royal Oak in Over Stratton, Somerset, courtesy of chef and owner, Jill Leaver. Her delicious and succulent pies have been delighting the diners at the historic pub for over 13 years since she and her husband, Chris took over ownership.
Jill readily admits that the acquisition of a Rational oven eight years ago has been instrumental in the success of her food.
“We invested in a Rational and rely upon AC Services (Southern) to ensure that the appliance runs perfectly and cooks to perfection,” she says.
“The value of the oven for me lies in its combination qualities: not only does it cook the food to perfection, but the reheating ability is second to none. This is particularly useful for the pies, with the pastry coming out as crisp when reheated as when first cooked. No soggy bottoms for my pies!”
Royal Oak and Rational
Originally built in the 1600s as a farmhouse, the Royal Oak became farm workers cottages before it received a licence to become an alehouse on the 1850s. Since then, it has enjoyed a reputation as a fine example of a typical picturesque English country pub. The venue itself is idyllic: attractive thatched roof with its Ham stone walls, flag stone floors and solid oak beams, which attracts visitors from far and wide.
The Royal Oak hosts events throughout the week, with Wednesdays and Thursdays are SURF, TURF, SWINE & WINE nights and a full Sunday lunch menu. But Jill’s pies are always on the menu and are always home cooked.
“Before we had the Rational oven, we had a different combination oven but it was unreliable,” she comments. “It was forever breaking down and frankly, we were uncertain of its abilities. But with the Rational, everything is clear and easy.
The service we get from AC Services is invaluable. It is regularly serviced and in the event of any problems, the engineer not only comes to fix the initial problem but checks everything as standard to ensure that nothing else is amiss.”
Jill maintains the oven carefully, cleaning it meticulously whenever it is used. The Royal Oak is renowned for its food and any deviation from quality will impact on its reputation.
“We had an extremely busy Christmas and New Year, with diners from the local Somerset community and further afield,” she continues. “And just one week into 2016, we are busier than we have ever been. Long may it continue!”
Count on AC Services
AC Services (Southern) is delighted to count the Royal Oak as one of its valued customers. The company believes that keeping a regular eye on the equipment and responding to any query, be it small or large as well as keeping in constant contact with the client is the secret to pre-empting any major problems.
The question is, does the engineer get rewarded with a pie? According to Jill, a cup of tea is reward enough!
AC Services (Southern) operates across the South of England, the Southwest, and South Wales. If you run a pub and are interested in a Rational oven, why not give them a call? You can reach them on 01454 322 222.
The Dunkirk Memorial House in Taunton is owned by the British Legion and is one of the organisation’s care homes that provides for former servicemen and women or their dependents.
The Legion currently has six care homes providing short and long-term care around the country, including four with specialist dementia care.
Each provides long-term nursing and personal care, and the food is an essential element of the service; as Taff Davies, Head of Catering at the Dunkirk home explains, keeping all the residents happy all of the time requires skill.
Catering at Dunkirk
“We rely upon two Rational ovens to fulfil the catering needs,” he comments. “Both are in constant use and in my opinion, with many years experience as a catering manager in the armed forces, they are the best on the market.”
Dunkirk Memorial House has 60 rooms, as well as a 30-bed Dementia care wing and the emphasis within the facility is on independence. So having a varied menu from which the residents can make a choice is important to Taff, who since his arrival two years ago, has revolutionised the cooking arena!
“I prefer to make dishes from scratch, not serve up food that is pre-prepared,” he continues. “This led to many hours spent searching for suitable suppliers, but we eventually got there, and with the help of the ovens, we are now able to produce the highest standards when it comes to meals.”
The Rational ovens allow Taff and his team to bake, steam and roast a variety of meats and fish, enabling them to be able to produce locally grown and produced meals for the 84 residents who currently reside at Dunkirk. This to Taff is an important aspect of independent living.
“We refuse to serve up substandard food, as the residents at Dunkirk and all of the British Legion homes deserve the highest level of quality from their food.”
Should anything go wrong with the Rational appliances, Taff has organised a budget care package for the older oven, a Gas 62 2007 as the other, the G62 WE 2013 is still under warranty. Under the agreement, AC Services (Southern) make two scheduled services annually, and as always, are on call should anything go amiss, although as Taff admits, the majority of calls to the company are simply for new deliveries of cleaning tablets.
“The ovens have a variety of functions that help in everyday catering on a large scale, which were explained by the team from AC Services, and which help enormously in the preparation of healthy, fresh meals for the residents,” Taff concludes.
The British Legion home communities include men and women of varied ages and abilities, each with a dedicated social activity team who tailor activities to residents’ needs. As always, the charity is grateful for donations, so to make a donation, simply contact the British Legion on its website.
A picturesque hotel in the heart of rural Hereford, the Three Counties Hotel is a family run venture, offering everything for the discerning visitor, from accommodation to food to a stunning event venue.
The hotel stands in landscaped gardens with over three acres for the guests to relax and unwind, and the location lends itself perfectly for weddings, which is a hotel speciality. The venue has banqueting and conferencing facilities for up to 450 guests, with 60 bedrooms, with means plenty of room for the happy couple and all their guests!
To cope with the demand which has led to the hotel being nominated as Best Venue in the Herefordshire Wedding Supplier Awards, the hotel uses Rational ovens. There are two in constant use in the hotel, both running on gas, and according to sales and admin manager, Michelle Standell, they are huge contributors to the successful events that go on all year round.
“We have an excellent reputation not only for the venue but for the catering which is often on a very large scale, so it is essential that the ovens are constantly and consistently in full working order,” she comments.
“We use AC Services Southern expert engineers to regularly service the appliances on a standard 12-month labour contract. It’s for total peace of mind because should the ovens fail for any reason, as ovens tend to do, we know that we are covered by AC Services at all times.”
The Three Counties Hotel offers an extensive menu, with trademark dishes involving local Herefordshire Beef, and traditional and international menus offered in the form of finger buffets up to sit-down four-course meals.
“We have the normal problems associated with cooking appliances, not heating up or steaming etc. But as soon as we realise there is a problem, we call out the experts and it gets fixed every time.
We’ve been operating this way for over a decade and it perfectly suits the way we run the hotel.”
If you want a venue for your birthday party, dinner dance to christening or wedding, or any other occasion to celebrate, then check out the facilities at the Three Counties Hotel and be assured that the food and catering will always be of the highest standards thanks to the support from AC Services (Southern).
Tranquillity doesn’t come much better than a 16th century inn, nestled in the heart of the Cotswold countryside, with facilities that offer the guest and visitor far more than just a day or night away.
The Crown of Crucis is idyllically located beside scenic Ampney Brook, a mere five minutes’ drive from the historic town of Cirencester. And as it overlooks the cricket pitch, guests can actually hear the sound of willow on leather: a quintessentially English venue!
Owner, Hugh Calvert has built up an excellent reputation for his cuisine, with the Crown of Crucis offering everything from corporate events to romantic weddings, and his secret is his Rational ovens. Both of them. And guests keep flocking back, whether for a fireside pub meal or fine dining in the restaurant, or a catered conference in the Cotswold Suite, which can accommodate up to 140 delegates in a theatre-style layout.
As Hugh explains, the quality and reliability of the ovens are central to the success of the inn, as food is constantly served throughout the day, from sandwiches and fish in the bar in the daytime to succulent meals in the evening.
“Reliability is paramount,” he explains. “We have been using Rational ovens since 2008 and not only can we rely upon them but the cooking quality is exemplary, with exactly the food we require produced time after time to perfection.”
The ovens are serviced by AC Services (Southern) for whom Hugh has nothing but praise. “We use them on an ad hoc basis,” he continues. “We have complete peace of mind that if anything happens, then we are immediately on the phone to AC Services. Sometimes they talk us through any problems so that we can sort them out or they send an engineer. Either way, the problem is always solved. The diagnostic ability of this company is second to none: they know Rational ovens!”
The Crown of Crucis underwent a refurbishment three years ago, and business has boomed ever since. “The consistency of the standards of our cuisine is a major priority for us,” concludes Hugh. “The Rational ovens have allowed us to produce our best at all times.”
Any deviation from the regime could cause untold problems. AC Services (Southern) believes that keeping a regular eye on the equipment, reporting any fault, however small it may seem, and keeping in constant contact with the client is the secret to solving any problem before it becomes an issue.
AC Services (Southern) operates across the South of England, the Southwest, and South Wales. If you operate Rational Ovens in your business, why not give them a call? You can reach them on 01454 322 222.