Tag Archives: AC Services
Two years ago, with the onset of the first lockdown, AC Services stopped posting their weekly blog on industry issues affecting their catering clients.
Survival against the changes in the pandemic has been the ongoing critical issue for this industry.
But now most restrictions are gone, as Covid moves from pandemic to endemic status; and it’s time to be going forward.
Going forward means continuing to actively manage cashflows especially with VAT on food back to 20% on 1st April.
The 25th March is technically known as a Quarter Day in legal terms. Last Friday this meant that the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022 gained Royal Assent. An important Act for restaurants, cafes and other catering businesses; because for any unresolved issues over rent debt since March 2020, there are now specific arbitration services to enable resolution by 25th September 2022. It aims to enable a little further breathing space to bring cash in and settle payment plans.
Another great way to boost cash is to hold events and have themes to bring people in. These can celebrate like the Queen’s Jubilee, enable sharing like sports events or raise awareness or money around specific issues. This is why every year we’d kick our blog off with a calendar.
Our 2022 abbreviated calendar starts with religious festivals and some changed bank holidays. It picks up a sporting flavour with the Commonwealth Games, accelerates with 3 world cups in October and November before FIFA hits in November/December. Worth a quick read to help the planning!
April National Pet Month and National Stress Awareness Month
- April 2 Ramadan begins
- April 15 Good Friday
- April 17 Easter Sunday
- April 7-10 Golf Masters, Augusta, USA
- April 19 Horse Racing, Grand National, Aintree, Liverpool
May Local and Community History Month
- May 2 Early May Bank Holiday
- May 3 Eid al Fitr, Ramadan ends
- May 14 Football FA Cup final. Wembley Stadium, London
- May 28 Football UEFA Champions League Final, Stade de France Paris
June National Smile Month
- June 2-3 Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Bank Holidays (Thursday & Friday)
- June 6-11 Cycling Women’s Tour UK
- June 15 Father’s Day
- June 16–19 Golf, US Open, Brookline
- June 20 World Refugee Day
- June 27-July 10 Tennis, Wimbledon
July National Ice Cream Month
- July 1-24 Cycling, Tour de France
- July 10 International Don’t Step on a Bee Day
- July 14-17 Golf, British Open, St Andrews, Scotland
- July 27- 7 August Multi-sports, Commonwealth Games, Birmingham
August National Family Fun Month
- August 25-28 Golf, US PGA, Atlanta
- August 29 Tennis, US Open, New York,
- August 29Late Summer Bank Holiday
September National Organic Month
- September 4-11 Cycling Tour of Britain
- September 26 Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year
- September 29-October 1 Golf, Ryder Cup, Marco Simone G&C Club Rome
October National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
- October 8 – November 12 Rugby Union Women’s World Cup, New Zealand
- October 15- November 19 Rugby League World Cup England
- October 17- November 14 Cricket Men’s T20 World Cup Australia
November Movember and Road Safety Month
- November 4 Deepavali (also known as Diwali), Festival of Lights
- November 21-December 18 Football FIFA World Cup, Qatar
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are two issues for all catering businesses to remember:
- you want to keep your oven in pristine condition for maximum and reliable performance.
- 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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
There’s been constant activity in the global media over the past few years regarding climate change and the effect that it is having on the food we eat. We may be in danger of losing some of the food we are familiar with; due predominantly to the changes that are taking place in our climate.
This year, the British brassica has been affected by unusually heavy summer rains bringing flooding to the UK’s main growing region for cauliflowers, Lincolnshire. Elsewhere, the record-breaking heat-wave wilted fields of cauliflowers across the whole of Europe. This left a shortage in not only cauliflowers, but also cabbages, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
America’s organic apples, mostly grown in Washington State, are also in trouble. As is coffee, with at least three-fifths of current coffee species facing extinction, according to a recent study. More worryingly is the decline in wheat crops, a staple global food which is sensitive to temperature changes. Places like India could see a reduction in wheat harvests of between 6% and 23% by 2050.
Even the humble sushi roll is under threat. Japanese farmers are blaming warmer, cleaner seas for a decline in nori seaweed production. The nori production fell to its lowest level in 2018 since 1972, pushing up prices and decimating supply.
The 2019 maple syrup harvest has also been affected. According to The New York Times, 2012 saw production of maple falling by 12.5% overall due to an unusually warm spring. This impacts negatively on syrup production because the process depends on specific temperature conditions.
More recently, in 2018, production of maple syrup fell by 21.7% throughout Canada. The culprit was Canada’s warm weather during the winter with later than normal snow. Sugar content is determined by the previous year’s carbohydrate stores with sap flow depending on the freeze-thaw cycle.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has even had to tap into its strategic reserves this year to avoid any shortages or price spikes for maple syrup. Quebec has put in place additional harvest areas to meet with high demands, and they are now being used widely.
From High to Low
In Vermont in America, sugar maple harvest has witnessed a renaissance in the 21st century following decades of decline. The revival comes as many Americans are turning their backs on refined sugars for natural products such as maple syrup, agaves and honey. Production of maple is now one of Vermont’s pre-eminent industries. In 2018, the value of Vermont’s maple syrup production exceeded $54.3M. This accounted for 38% of the maple syrup produced nationwide.
Producers are doing what they can to avoid any shortages; such as collecting the sap later in the season and introducing technological advancements. These cut down on traditional collection using buckets and replace it with miles of vacuum pump-operated tubing.
As Keith Thompson of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation says: “It’s not just about keeping the individual trees healthy, it’s about keeping the entire forest healthy.”
The maple syrup industry is currently keeping abreast of the problem. It’s initiating solutions to combat the inevitable changes in climate. It urges other industries to follow suit in order for our favourite foods to remain available. At AC Services, we thoroughly commend that approach.
The summer has arrived in style, crowning the England cricket team champions of the world in what must be the most nerve-racking and exciting sporting final ever broadcast. The subsequent celebrations involved food and drink galore, which leads nicely on to our latest regional round-up of all things to be eaten and drunk.
First, keep an eye on social media as Cardiff is getting ready to host its month-long street food celebration with the Summer Feastival returning for summer 2019. Last year, a host of street food traders took over Sophia Gardens. This year, it will be held at City Hall Lawns from Saturday, August 10 until Sunday, September 8. It’s free entry to the festival featuring a changing line-up of different street food traders from across Wales and the South West. A stage will feature live music performances.
South West Business Booming
In the year ending March 2019, HMRC has reported that businesses in the South West exported more than £850m of locally produced food and drink with a surge in trading with Singapore, growing by 31%. Overseas sales of drinks from this region showed the largest growth over the period, increasing by 17% to reach more than £134m. Food Minister David Rutley said, “it is fantastic to see the growing appetite for the South West’s quality produce in markets such as France, Spain and Singapore.” In the first three months of 2019 the nation’s food and drink exports were £5.7B.
There’s a new scheme taking place in Bristol this summer. Some of city’s restaurants and cafes are serving green-inspired dishes to support food redistribution charity, FareShare South West’s #ActiveAteBristol campaign. The campaign’s aim for 2019 is to provide over 40,000 meals to children at projects and holiday clubs throughout Bristol during the long summer holidays.
School food support stops in the holidays and the charity wants all children to eat properly over the six-week break. By ordering a dish inspired by the green in FareShare’s logo at a partaking cafe or restaurant; a donation will be made to FareShare South West. The scheme runs from July 19 to September 1.
Wales Does Well
The Development Bank of Wales attended the Royal Welsh Show last week, Europe’s largest agricultural show. The Development Bank has a range of funds available to help all sectors including farming, tourism, retail, and food and drink. The fund’s key aim is to finance tourism projects, which have the opportunity to create positive impact on growing the sector and Welsh economy. In the last financial year the Development Bank supported Welsh businesses with 220 micro loans.
The show saw Welsh food and drink business support programme, Cywain, celebrating a decade of nurturing talent in the sector by showcasing some of the new enterprises. Cywain guides and encourages small food and drink businesses. Support is achieved through packages of business support targeted to individual requirements. These include expert advice and mentoring, product development, networking, clustering, and test trading and market opportunities.
AC Services News
At AC Services our new Engineer Steve Miles joined us in March and attended Rational’s 3 Day training in Luton in April. He continued his side-by-side training with our two Senior engineers and is now out in his own van helping customers.
Helen commented: “Steve is doing extremely well helping our full range of customers big and small, old and new with their Rational oven breakdowns, service and installations. It is great to have him in our team”
More than simply a swimming pool, the Clifton Lido in Bristol has gained a well-earned reputation for fine food. With a restaurant and a poolside bar, the former restored Victorian swimming pool has been designed for contemporary luxury.
Having first opened its doors in 1850, the swimming pool changed hands many times until its final closure in 1990. The threat of turning the building into flats was ever-present until 2006, when the Glass Boat company purchased the site. And following an extensive restoration project, the Lido opened to the public two years later. It now boasts a Grade II listing and a record as the oldest heated outdoor swimming pool in Britain.
Restaurant and Bar
The restaurant overlooks the pool on the original viewing gallery. It offers a relaxed and informal space with floor to ceiling doors sliding back to allow entry for the elements. The menus incorporate Moorish and Mediterranean cuisine, with a strong Spanish lilt, with ingredients sourced from small-scale hand-picked suppliers.
The set menu offers delicacies such as raw rhubarb, fennel, salted almond and goat’s curd salad for starters and warm North African mezze with falafel, tahini sauce and warm flat bread for mains followed by Basque-style burnt cheesecake, rhubarb and creme fraiche Pedro Ximenez and raisin ice cream for dessert.
The transformation of the venue into a chilled-out restaurant has been a resounding success, with “relaxed and unpretentious dining; where suits and robes sit cheek by jowl to enjoy great ingredients.”
According to maintenance manager, Paul Wyatt, the kitchen equipment has been instrumental in this success, with a three-year old Rational electric oven working hard in the kitchen to supply perfect cuisine to diners.
“We have an ad hoc contract with AC Services (Southern) with the oven” he explains. “It is serviced once a year but the company is always on hand should any minor problems arise.” Typically these issues comprise of general wear and tear due to the oven being constantly in use, but rarely, if ever do any big problems arise.
Paul has an affinity with Rational, as part of his job is to also look after the Bristol Glassboat restaurant.This is owned by the same company, and situated on Welshback in Bristol’s historic floating harbour. The venue has fast become an iconic eating house in Bristol, with tables that look out to the water through large, restored wooden windows, with views around the harbourside and to the city.
The restaurant opened 30 years ago, with the original boat dragged from the muddy waters of the river Severn and lovingly restored in the early 1980s. The Glassboat Brasserie menu consists of a classic French menu, carefully chosen and prepared using the best ingredients.
The food is simple in style but exquisite in taste, with a massive choice: rabbit terrine, cornichons, celeriac remoulade, provencale fish soup, aioli, rouille, crouton, fried pigs head, smoked eel and potato pancakes are just some of the delicacies on the menu.
And yet again, behind the success lies a Rational 101 SH oven, five years old and still going strong. “The big advantage of this appliance is that it is self cleaning,” continues Paul. “The chef just turns it on and it is ready for use. The reliability and performance is outstanding and plays a huge role in the continuing success and reputation of the Glassboat.”
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.