Category Archives: Rational

25 
Jun

4th July Catering Celebration or Bust?

Catering businesses

When the Prime Minister announced yesterday that most pubs and catering businesses could re-open or extend beyond a delivery service on 4th July, many in the sector were already wondering how. In the end it will boil down to an individual business choice.

A Bit of a Muddle

Official guidance and guidelines on what’s required were not available on 23rd June. Indeed, googling catering guidance brings up the Scottish government response as the first option. Given that the opportunity to open only applies to England, that’s not particularly helpful. But we are assured that the guidelines will be updated soon. In reality this will be too late for a 4th July opening for those who decide to open.

As the AC Services’ region is South West England and South Wales, we have some customers who can consider opening and some who won’t hear until 9th July. This is when the Welsh Assembly is next due to announce its decision.

In catering, timing and communication are everything. All catering businesses need to consider whether they wish to meet the opportunity of opening on 4th July or to start communicating to their clients the date when they will be open. They can then plan accordingly and manage the risks.

What might catering businesses need to do?

Details are sketchy of what might be required. It became further confused with the reduction of the 2m to 1m rule. What may be needed is to:

  • Provide mandatory table service for drinks as well as meals
  • Require staff to wear face masks and wash hands every 20 minutes
  • Use app-ordering by customers at table
  • Reduce the numbers of tables to comply with distancing rules
  • Provide options for sitting outside and perhaps Perspex screens between tables for those inside
  • Take all customer details to enable contact tracing should an outbreak occur.

Consider your team and your catering equipment?

Ultimately to open or not after 4th July is a business decision. This should consider whether there is sufficient demand from your customers to fill your restricted venue delivered by a trained team of staff supported by fully operational equipment. This was the decision faced by AC Services at the beginning of lockdown.

As we maintain and service Rational ovens in hospitals and other key services, we could not fully close. We did however have to furlough staff to balance demand against potential income.

With clients already preparing to re-open, we’re getting increasing calls to service Rational ovens. This allows us to unfurlough engineers as the sector begins to get back on its feet.

Calling us before opening allows us to schedule the engineer visits outside of service hours. This minimises both covid-19 risks and the chaos caused when a machine fails in-service. We’d recommend that if your machines have not been used for some time, that they are serviced first as the best way to save costs.

But we also recognise that some businesses will take the risk given Rational’s reputation for reliability. We’re sure that those businesses will understand if we are unable to respond immediately, as we used to, until we have our own team back at full strength. And if it does happen do call us on 01454 322 222 so we can discuss your options.

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Published Date: 25th June 2020
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News, Ovens, Rational
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01 
Apr

We’re Still Open for Key Sites

AC Services Open for Key Sites

While this will be our last blog for a while due to the impacts of coronavirus, we are still open for key sites with our core crew. If you’ve had to close please follow our Rational oven close down tips below.

So, if you’re a hospital, care home or an off-site food company with a maintenance contract with AC Services you’re still covered for any breakdowns that occur. If this does happen please call the normal number 01454 322 222 and speak to Helen. She will arrange for our engineer to visit to repair the breakdown.

If you’re already a connectedcooking kitchen, we are able to remotely monitor and identify the fault, which can minimise the time we need to spend with you.

New Customers

If you’re a not a regular AC Services customer, but have a breakdown on a Rational oven in the area we cover of South West England and Southern Wales; we might be able to assist you if you are a key site such as a hospital or care facility.

As we’re sure you understand, we are prioritising our established client base and responding to their breakdowns. This unfortunately means we cannot promise to assist you as promptly as normal and may mean our engineer will be diverted elsewhere. But for key facilities, we will try to help repair your Rational breakdown if we can.

Continuing Business and Key Sites

Obviously, we need to continue to operate within the guidelines issued by the government to minimise the spread of coronavirus. We are considering what impacts this has on the need to regularly service Rational ovens to prevent breakdowns and how we can deliver this over the longer term.

In the meantime, we’d urge customers to ensure that the weekly and daily maintenance routines are adhered to using the approved products. These are available from our on-line shop if your stocks are running low.

Rational Oven Close Down Procedures

If you have closed your kitchen then please do the following for your Rational oven close down.

For Rational SH, SI and Combi Master Plus please watch these handy videos first. Steam tank emptying. CM P tank emptying which is a download.

  1. Find the water supply and isolate the unit.
  2. Use the Handshower until it is empty.
  3. Power off unit and leave door partially open

When returning unit to operation, return power and water

  1. Use hand shower to rinse water feed system
  2. Run unit in steam for 30 minutes
  3. Run short cleanjet

Or for Rational CareControl SG range

Rational oven close down for Carecontrol
  1. Find the water supply and isolate the unit.
  2. Use the Handshower until it is empty.
  3. Follow instructions above to empty tank. If this does not work with the door closed, repeat with door open
  4. Power off unit and leave door partially open

When returning unit to operation, return power and water

  1. Use hand shower to rinse water feed system
  2. Run unit in steam for 30 minutes
  3. Run short cleanjet

Keeping in Touch

While there won’t be any blogs for the next few weeks, please follow us on Facebook for any updates. Or if you are spending time creating a new strategy for your business why not check out our earlier blogs on trends in catering businesses and show reports.

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Published Date: 1st April 2020
Category: Blog, Catering Business, Cleaning Products, News, Ovens, Rational, Self Cooking Centre
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05 
Mar

Hospital Food Improves

Hospitals will be increasingly in the news over the coming months as the country copes with coronavirus. AC Services Southern already maintains a number of hospitals’ Rational equipment to ensure that their kitchens are fully functioning, whatever the demands. 

We were particularly pleased when Rational UK decided to film conversations with the Royal United Hospital Bath about the reasons why they choose to go with Rational. Find out about the savings, HACCP benefits, ConnectedCooking and improved product for their 46,000 meals a month on the video

What the video doesn’t show is the support provided by ourselves on a service contract as the local certified Rational Service Partner. This support is both regular service and maintenance calls and through alerts generated through the ConnectedCooking functionality. This combination enables the Rational equipment to deliver consistently high standards with lower stress for the chefs.

Looking after Catering Staff during the Coronavirus Crisis

Hospital resources will be stretched with potentially 1 in 5 of the workforce affected. Thankfully most of these will be mild cases, but they will still be contagious. The official advice is if you have a cough, a high temperature or shortness of breath then phone the doctor. Don’t attend in person as this potentially increases the spread of the disease amongst those least able to cope.

For catering businesses themselves, then good food hygiene practices are key to reduce the potential to spread coronavirus. Hopefully already catering staff are:

  • catching sneezes and coughs in disposable tissues and then washing their hands 
  • avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth
  • washing hands regularly ideally with soap and water for 20 seconds as though they were a surgeon preparing for an op. So, no touching of taps without a paper towel afterwards.

A change in the routine might be the provision for staff of anti-bacterial hand gel to keep service flowing. This is less effective than soap and water, but for those handling crockery and cutlery allows more regular use. Be aware though that repeated use of hand gel can dry skin; out so perhaps provide some end of shift hand lotion. Alternatively, now might be the time to resurrect waiters in white gloves!

Please don’t be surprised if your AC Services engineer asks to wash his hands on arrival and just before leaving your business. We’re already planning how to minimise contagion so that we can give our hospital and catering clients the service they need at this critical time.

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Published Date: 5th March 2020
Category: Catering Business, News, Rational
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11 
Feb

Pub20 Show Report

PUB20 logo

Olympia London played host last week to the only dedicated show for the pub industry, PUB20. The two days of the event brought together more than 200 innovative suppliers; 60 experts of the industry speaking across 30 talks and the latest food, drink and technology trends.

The first day of PUB20 saw a number of talks, all pertinent to the future of the pub industry. There were talks on the design of pubs, how to entice customers in and make them comfortable. This included an exclusive look at Harp Interiors’ at-show design masterpiece, the PUB Theatre, which demonstrated the top design trends to engage the next generation. The talks reflected the industry’s determination to combat the problems it faces and present positive solutions.

Social Media and Experiential Drinks

Social media was another subject covered; with a debate about the advantages of social media, asking questions such as whether Instagram or Facebook are the best platform for pubs. The session provided inspiration and a clear understanding of how to create effective content, grow brand awareness and engage customers. Similar talks included advice on photographing drinks and placing them on the right media to attract customers.

Much was made of the dichotomy between alcohol and non alcohol drinkers. Club Soda DrinkX offered solutions for appropriate products to bring people together socially, rather than separate them based on alcohol. Experiential beverages are one of the key drivers behind the growth of the low and no market. The advice here is on “immersive, multi-sensory, premium, customisable serves which bring theatre and new rituals to excite modern consumers”.

Food in Pubs

RATIONAL contributed with a talk about the right equipment and how it can play a key role in delivering delicious pub grub in a timely manner to maximise any chef’s multitasking ability. Food featured strongly at the show, with the rise of the meat-free cuisine a hot topic. In a cooking demonstration, chef Neil Rankin showed how plant-based burgers can showcase the same skill and attention to detail as those containing meat; whilst being kinder on the profit margins as well as the environment.

There was a big focus on catering in pubs for flexitarians, those who do eat meat but are looking to reduce their consumption of meat. This group now make up 68% of UK diners, leading to diners looking to try something new while eating out. 78% of consumers think food quality contributes the most to the dining experience. And expectations of food quality has again risen in 2019. The show suggested Grilling Cheese as a solution to help address the balance between profitability and quality.

Of course, no PUB20 show would be complete without the great Sausage Roll Off. Here past winners returned to compete, create, roll and bake their own take on the sausage roll. The show returns in 2021 promising to be even bigger and better.

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Published Date: 11th February 2020
Category: Blog, Events, News, Rational
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04 
Feb

Rational’s VarioCookingCenter

Rational VarioCookingCenter at a cooklive demo

As an authorised Rational Service and Spares Partner, AC Services Southern repairs and maintains the complete range of Rational units. This includes the VarioCookingCenter previously sold under the Frima brand. So this week we’re focusing on that as one of the units we service for clients across South West England and South Wales.

Rational’s VarioCookingCenter® is the ideal multi-functional appliance for any kitchen because it can do a multitude of cooking tasks at the same time. The beauty of the appliance is the value it offers – savings in time, cost, speed and ultimately, profits.

The VarioCookingCenter® is suitable for any catering requirements, from small caterers to high-end restaurants. With over 95% efficiency, it cooks up to four times faster than conventional appliances. And uses up to 40% less power consumption.

Moreover, it has cooking versatility, letting you cook several different dishes quickly at the same time. The multi-functional cooking technology lets you bake, boil, roast, toast, braise, deep fry and a host of other cooking techniques. So if you are serving a full English breakfast; you can serve up the fried bacon, boiled eggs, sautéed tomatoes and toast all at the same time.

Pressure Cooking

The appliance also offers a pressure-cooking feature, enabling the reduction of cooking times for a range of dishes. Times for soups, stews, casseroles and braised dishes can be cut by 30% without compromising taste or quality. The built-in cooking intelligence VarioCookingControl® ensures the desired cooking level is achieved precisely.

Another major benefit of the VarioCookingCenter is its space-saving value. If you are tight on space, then this system is the perfect solution. It has an integrated water outlet which allows draining without any movement to the pan. This prevents scalding and allows the appliance to be installed without a floor channel drain. Furthermore, because nothing sticks or overcooks, cleaning time is minimised.

Expert Design

The appliance has been designed by experts using intensive R&D, testing and analysis to attain the optimum cooking intelligence. As a result, the VarioCookingCenter works day and night with minimal monitoring or checking required. Because the appliance sensitively regulates the temperature at the touch of a button, you get a perfect cooking result the next morning. This is a major boost for larger cuts of meat that need overnight boiling like ham or cured pork, beef and brisket.

The VarioCookingCenter is a sustainable and holistic approach to everyday cooking designed for resource savings using the very latest technology. Contact us here at AC Services (Southern) for more details if you need it serviced or maintained on 01454 322 222.

If you’d like to buy one, contact Rational UK or attend a local cooklive demonstration to see its suitability for your business.

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Published Date: 4th February 2020
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News, Ovens, Rational
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26 
Nov

Last Service Call for Christmas

Black Friday kickoff for Christmas countdown for Rational oven servicing

In the good old days, we used to all be aware of the number of shopping days till Christmas. But now every day is a shopping day. On-line and in the real world, we’re able to get most things within 24 hours of ordering them. Increasingly we have become reliant upon that.

Problems arise when that last-minute expectation cannot be met for perfectly valid reasons. Like a finite number of service engineers and everyone suddenly needing their expertise. This is the problem we face every year at AC Services Southern; when catering businesses suddenly realise in December they need their Rational oven servicing before peak Christmas use.

Black Friday Reminder

Black Friday sales seem to be launched earlier each year. One UK retailer started theirs in October this year! Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is the last Thursday in November. Thanksgiving is the big American turkey dinner with all the trimmings followed by pumpkin pie for the whole family; while Black Friday signifies the start of the countdown to Christmas not the biggest sales.

Indeed it’s called Black Friday from all the heavy and disruptive vehicle and pedestrian traffic. This caused gridlock on the streets of Philadelphia, as the whole family went shopping on their free day. It sounds a bit like a cross between a Boxing Day walk and the start of New Year sales!

For AC Services, it’s almost become a tradition that on the Tuesday nearest Thanksgiving, we blog our gentle reminder to Rational oven users in South West England and South Wales. This is to not delay and book your pre-Christmas Rational service today on 01454 322 222.

This way both of us can tick your equipment off our to do list early and concentrate on the real Christmas dramas later in December. We can guarantee that up until Christmas Eve, our engineers will be working flat out to cope with the inevitable panicked last-minute rush of breakdowns and servicing!

Buy On-line

Now is also a good time to check that you have all the cleaning products you need to ensure that your Rational ovens continue to function at their highest efficiency. Rational Self-Cooking-Centers have automatic cleaning programmes built into their software. When used with the right cleaning materials you get cosmetic and hygienic cleanliness.

Our on-line shop enables you to purchase these at whatever time of day you remember or have free in the forthcoming rush. But please be aware as these are delivered by delivery firms and they may be affected by their delays caused by volume of parcels and weather. Again earlier purchase enables greater peace of mind.

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Published Date: 26th November 2019
Category: Catering Business, Cleaning Products, News, Ovens, Rational, Self Cooking Centre, Service plan
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19 
Nov

Are You Aware of ConnectedCooking

Rational's ConnectedCooking is the way forward for catering businesses

The world is becoming increasingly technology-enabled. Nowadays there seems to be an app or a Smart solution for almost everything. While some leave me wondering why there is a need, the same is not true of Rational Oven’s ConnectedCooking.

Since March 2017 Rational has been enabling its SelfCookingCenter® units with ConnectedCooking functionality and equipping them with Ethernet ports. More recently they’ve launched an app to create the world’s most state-of-the-art cloud-based networking solution for professional kitchens. It’s available on iTunes and Google Play Store . These advances bring real benefits to professional catering businesses.

Increasing Convenience

The app and the ports enable all your Rational SelfCookingCenter® or CombiMaster® Plus units to be connected to a single network completely automatically. As a manager you will always know what is going on in your kitchen through the dashboard. Even when you’re off-site and can make adjustments remotely through your own device in real time.

It also makes sharing your cooking programmes across all your units easier and quicker. This in turn removes time-consuming activities and ensures the consistency of food safety in your kitchen.

But ConnectedCooking is not just for larger kitchens. The secure remote access enables software updates to be installed, quickly like those on your laptop, so that your Rational is always running optimally. The app also makes it easier to access inspiration for new menus through new ideas from other foodservice professionals and Rational chefs.

Security of Food and Data

Food safety is a demanding challenge for modern kitchen operations. Ever-increasing government requirements and stringent hygiene standards require a great deal of administrative work. It’s also important to eliminate operator error as much as possible. ConnectedCooking automatically captures all the key HACCP information and displays it in a dashboard with the option to download and print.

The remote access can be authorised for your Service Partner, such as AC Services, as part of a service contract. This enables remote diagnostics for problems and can fix issues without the need for an engineer to visit. It also alerts AC Services that there might be an issue. As you would expect the system uses state-of-the-art encryption technology to keep all data secure and compliant with GDPR.

New Year Opportunity?

If your SelfCookingCenter® units were made after March 2017, you just need to connect them to your network by a LAN cable or wireless module and download the free app to get started by registering the units. If not then we would be delighted to come out in 2020 to retrofit them with the Ethernet interfaces.

Either way give the AC Services team a call on 01454 322 222 in January to discuss further ConnectedCooking functionality and how it benefits all sizes and types of kitchen. We can then make your maintenance issues even easier to solve, saving more time in 2020.

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Published Date: 19th November 2019
Category: Blog, News, Ovens, Rational, Self Cooking Centre
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12 
Nov

Rational Cleaning Routine

Ensuring service through Rational oven cleaning products

It might be mid-November but it’s getting perilously close to Xmas. Which means you should start making lists of everything you need to make the season progress as smoothly as possible.

If you are in charge of catering, then remember to add Rational cleaning products to the list. They may not be as glamorous as some of your requests to Santa, but they are an oft-overlooked necessity.

Rational Cleaning Products Save Time

Your Rational oven needs to be cleaned regularly in order to perform to its optimal capacity. And you need to ensure that the correct cleaning products are used.

At AC Services, we supply all the assistance you need to service and maintain your oven, from Rational Grill Cleaner, Rational Rinse Aid, Rational Oven Cleaning Tablets for the SCC (SelfCooking Center®) range and for those with Care Control, Rational Care Control Tablets and accessories.

If you have more than one oven, then you may need different cleaning product combinations. As a reminder, we supply:

  • Rational Oven Cleaner Tab (x100): highly concentrated tablets specially developed with a complex set of active ingredients designed to guarantee maximum cleaning power.
  • Rational Oven Care Tablets (x150) with special scale-dissolving ingredients contained to prevent limescale building up. These give reliability without a water softener and the need for separate time-consuming descaling.
  • Rational Rinse Tablets (x50) highly effective care products ensuring active protection.
  • The Rational Grill Cleaner (10 litres) for use with a hand spray gun.
  • Rational Rinse Aid (10 litres).
  • For water filtration, the products are either the Brita Purity 1200 Quell ST Filter Cartridge or the Brita Purity 600 Quell ST Filter Cartridge.

Be Prepared

You may think you have plenty of time but it never hurts to be prepared. And that means BOOKING A SERVICE now if you haven’t already to avoid the inevitable last-minute panic rush. We would be delighted to come out and check your oven over and pre-empt any problems that might arise.

Otherwise to order your Rational cleaning products, simply go to our on-line shop. Or call us on 01454 322222 for more advice of how to keep on top of your Rational oven cleaning.

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Published Date: 12th November 2019
Category: Blog, Cleaning Products, News, Ovens, Rational, Self Cooking Centre, Service plan
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05 
Nov

Don’t Delay Service Today

Don't delay service today

We were rather hoping to bring good news this week, if not about Brexit then about the Rugby World Cup. Instead, we have a runners-up medal and a delay. But fear not, we also have a pre-Christmas general election to look forward to.

And unless you have taken a break from reality this weekend, you will notice that the Christmas and New Year countdown is beginning in earnest.

It’s time to start planning and where better than the annual service for your Rational appliances.

Spiralling Costs

There are two issues for all catering businesses to remember:

  1. you want to keep your oven in pristine condition for maximum and reliable performance.
  2. you don’t want to spend any more money over the festive period than you have already budgeted for.

The cost element can be far-reaching. It’s not just the expense in downtime if you have an oven failure, but also the cost of calling out an engineer if you don’t have a contract in place. Emergency call outs for one of AC Services’ engineers can be 1.5 times or double the normal rate if it has to be the weekend.

Not having a service contract is not cost efficient. Servicing is the key to optimum performance. Here at AC Services, we constantly reiterate this point. Simply put, don’t delay service today!

As an example, we had a customer last Friday with a problem. Unfortunately, the oven had not been serviced for a few years and as we couldn’t get to them on Friday, we dispatched an engineer on Saturday. The bill for an out-of-hours call out an unwelcome £500. A problem with the steam hose and subsequently the drain hose affected the cleanjet pump. This expensive crisis could have easily been averted with a service, which would have pinpointed any problem with the steam hose.

Don’t Delay Service Today

Helen Hagger, MD of ACS offers some friendly advice. “Even though some ovens may still be in warranty, you should still organise a twice-yearly service because we know from experience that a lot can go wrong in six months,” she explains. “We often see where one small thing goes wrong, if it is not put right, it has a knock-on effect. Don’t forget that our engineers have immediate access to the majority of parts which minimises any delay. It’s all about peace of mind and pre-empting potential problems.

For further details and a no obligation quote for your Rational oven maintenance contract telephone 01454 322222 or email us today on service@acservicessouthern.co.uk.

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Published Date: 5th November 2019
Category: Blog, News, Ovens, Rational, Service plan
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22 
Oct

Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort

Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort

Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort is located in the heart of Wiltshire nestled within the Bowood Estate. The luxurious hotel is surrounded by parkland landscaped by the famous Capability Brown.

It provides an idyllic retreat, whether for weekend breaks, golfing escapes, spa pampering, weddings or simply to savour the first-class cuisine. The Estate also contains Bowood House & Gardens, home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne.

The hotel, itself, contains 43 beautifully furnished contemporary bedrooms and suites. Guests can enjoy the luxury spa with its infinity swimming pool, gym and pampering spa treatments. The golf course is particularly popular, with a full championship PGA 18-hole golf course.

Weddings, celebrations and conferences are fully catered for, with the backdrop of the surroundings adding to the ambience.

Dining Experience

The hotel is open all day for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea. It also caters for corporate events which means that the kitchens are always busy.

Replacing the old ovens over four years ago, Rational supplied two 201E SCC WE units for the main banqueting and conference kitchen, and a 101E SCC WE model for the brasserie. After the initial two-year warranty scheme, the hotel chose a maintenance contract package from AC Services (Southern) which, according to Steve Foster, Maintenance Manager at the hotel, is working perfectly.

The Rational ovens serve their purpose perfectly,” he comments. “They are not only reliable but robust and we have them serviced twice a year, once before the seasonal rush at Christmas.

Because we invested heavily in the ovens, we are determined to keep them maintained and extract the maximum amount of performance so apart from ensuring they are regularly and properly cleaned on our part, we can rely on AC Services to provide back-up at all times, not only with regular servicing but in case there are any problems. An engineer is sent out within 24-48 hours and the issue is always resolved with no disruption to our daily operation.”

This is vital to the chefs at the Bowood Hotel who provide the very best in cuisine using where possible, local suppliers. The hotel is dedicated to understanding and appreciating the importance of provenance, believing that the secret to crafting seasonally exceptional cuisine begins with the careful selection of only the freshest, sustainably reared meat, fish and fruit and vegetables.

Oven Ready

According to Steve, “the catering team is always striving to create both dynamic and contemporary menus for our guests to relish and savour during their stay no matter what the occasion might be.

This requires a reliable and capable oven, and the Rational ovens, supported by the maintenance package from AC Services, provide exactly what is required.

The Shelburne Restaurant serves daily delicious food from seasonal menus every day “prepared with passion and served with flair”. The Clubhouse Brasserie offers a menu ranging from traditional fish and chips to a Club sandwich. Weddings and conferences give the kitchen staff the creativity to provide the best cuisine possible, with the Rational ovens helping with this aim.

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Published Date: 22nd October 2019
Category: Blog, Case Study, News, Rational, Service plan
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