Tag Archives: Rational Ovens
Fast food and mass catering may appear to be the invention of the 20th century but catering for the masses transcends millennia. Evidence has been excavated at the site of the Pyramids. This revealed a mess hall for the workers, long benches and tables and fish and meat bones. Armies throughout history were fed en masse (possibly not with the healthiest food but fed nonetheless) so catering as a trade has a long heritage.
The modern idea of fast food evolved with the inception of the motor industry where it became easier for people to pop into a store to buy a burger. By the 1950s in the USA, fast food was in full swing. It wasn’t long before heavy advertising and the introduction of children’s meals made it a firm favourite. Today, the global contribution of fast food outlet revenue is in the region of £500 billion.
Fast Food Growing
According to a recent report in the Guardian, the total number of takeaway food shops in England has risen by 4,000 in the past three years. This is an increase of 8%. There are currently 56,638 takeaways in England. They comprises more than 25% of all the country’s food outlets.
Many of the 326 local authorities in the UK have seen significant increases in the number of fast food outlets. Between 2014 and 2017, 20 record rises of more than 20%. Only 40 councils (12%) have seen the number of fast food outlets fall or stay the same.
Since 2012, the fast food and mass catering industry has performed relatively well. Takeaway operators have responded to higher levels of consumer expenditure by introducing higher quality food, often using organic produce and ensuring low-fat, low-sugar and low-salt meal options.
Despite the constant criticism of unhealthy and high calorific food content, fast food is still very popular . Reasons include affordable prices, busy lifestyles and increasing on-the-go consumption. There is also a much wider variety of products available to accommodate different dietary requirements.
With any mass catering, the emphasis is on efficiency and hygiene. This is true whether it is for a fast food chain or a mess hall, hotel, hospital, airline or school. Too many instances of bad practice resulting in food poisoning or infection have been traced to bad habits in the kitchen or inadequate cooking facilities.
An oven, such as the Rational units, must not only cook the food but also synchronise the cooking of each individual element. It should also be fast and reliable in performance. In addition, the oven must be regularly serviced and checked. This is best as part of an ongoing maintenance regime to ensure top performance.
Contact AC Services on 01454 322222 if you are a fast food and mass catering organisation for appliance best practice .
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.
A question that has often puzzled me is when should preparing for Christmas really start? If we were in the USA then we would already be in the throes of Happy Holidays marketing. But in the UK there is the automatic groan when the first Christmas advert appears. Or the C-word is mentioned at a networking meeting.
An enforced watching of daytime television last week, revealed that already it is not only DFS encouraging you to order now in time for Christmas, but there is an advert for Christmas 2018. Clearly it is never too early to start planning!
All families and most businesses have traditions around Christmas and New Year. Whether that is the day off for Mum with Christmas dinner in a restaurant or the Boxing Day walk and trip to the pub.
For businesses it’s party season. Or the insistence that Christmas Eve is a half day even though no work is done. Of course this year as the 24th is a Sunday that tradition does not apply!
In some ways the Americans are right. The last week of December and turn of the year is all about partying, feasting and holidaying. Of course the early Christian Romans beat the Americans to it when they chose the 25th December as the day to celebrate. As this was the time of the pagan revelry of Saturnalia and the festival of Sol Invicta (the Unconquered Sun), it was an easy transfer.
So what’s this to do with Rational, Frima and AC Services?
Sol Invicta celebrated that the winter solstice had passed. By 25th December, it is usually possible to see the days once again drawing out. By January 1st it is clear this is happening, so we can look forward to future harvests and eat and drink what we have.
AC Services Southern has fallen into the tradition of highlighting to owners of Rational ovens and Frima vario-cooking centres that early October is the time to prepare for the feasting season before it’s too late. Whether that’s because the autumn equinox has passed and the days are clearly shorter, we don’t know!
But now is the time to plan to have your ovens serviced to avoid disasters on the big days. Remember, remember preventative maintenance is almost always cheaper than breakdown catering disaster.
Prepare for Celebrations, Act Now
So there is no better time to book a service for your Rational oven in time for Christmas! Why not also order your cleaning products now and avoid the impending price increases?
AC Services (Southern) are more than happy to help. We offer a range of packages to suit any budget for service. Our aim is to help you take some of the stress out of December. If you own a Rational oven in South, South West England and South Wales, we are the local cost effective provider of all your Rational oven and Frima vario-cooking centre service needs.
So, if you’re preparing for Christmas, please talk to one of the team on 01454 322222.
There is no getting away from the fact that Brexit has brought the British pound to a low. It is the lowest in fact for 31 years. Although this is good news for manufacturing, tourism and exports, it is not so good for an imported product as it leads to a price increase.
Of wider importance this week is the negotiations that the British government can manage regarding access to the EU. And the move announced by the Prime Minister is sending the Opposition up in arms. Mrs May has decided to hold a late-night Commons vote this week to secure for the Government, the authority to use so-called “Henry VIII powers” to hustle in new laws behind the backs of MPs. It’s not gone down too well!
Off With Their Heads!
“This is an unprecedented power grab by a minority government that lost its moral authority as well as its majority at the general election,” said Valerie Vaz, Labour’s Shadow Commons Leader. Just one of many similar outraged comments on the move.
This is important for catering businesses because among the issues expected to be voted on are those that affect the food industry, including protection for British workers and consumers, and environmental standards. This is part of a move towards getting some financial stability back although it may be a long wait.
Small Price Increase
So, back in the real world, businesses are trying to accommodate the weakness of the pound in their daily operations. Here at AC Services (Southern) we are doing the same. Rational has announced they’re increasing the price of cleaning products by c5% on 1st December. This follows the currency movements of the pound and the euro. The falling exchange rate makes our goods more competitive overseas, but it also raises our costs.
We understand that a price increase is unpopular. So we have decided that we are not passing this price increase on for cleaning products ordered by 20th December and despatched in 2017. This gives you an extra month at today’s prices if stock is available.
This excludes the water filters which are made by Brita, the price of which AC Services again has no control over. At present, the filters remain at the same price but due to the ongoing devaluation, there is a strong likelihood that prices could increase. Given that inflation is now also rising from 2.6 to 2.9% pa
So the smart move is to check your stock levels. Buy today to help us, help you to benefit tomorrow on cleaning products for your Rational ovens and keep your costs low.
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.
Clients often ask AC Services Southern why we recommend a full annual service on their Rational appliances. Surely regular cleaning and standard maintenance practices are enough to maintain the performance of the ovens?
The truth is that however much and however meticulously you clean your oven, like your own car, there is still the need for a regular Rational service to optimise or replace the parts which wear.
So for the diligent as well as those absent-minded oven owners out there, we have a solution. We have been using a new system since April. We now log when ovens are serviced and sending a timely reminder when the next service is due.
At AC Services we like to give back to our loyal customers so read on to see how you can SAVE £10 on online orders. We are the Rational Service Partner for South West England and South Wales. Our team of engineers only repair and maintain Rational ovens and Frima Vario Cooking Centres. That places us in the very safe position of knowing exactly what we are looking for and what we are doing.
Our engineers have over 40 years’ experience between them and as we only work on two pieces of equipment, all the engineers have a van full of Rational original parts. What this means is that in the majority of cases (more than 95%), our engineers will have any parts that may be required so we will be able to quote you the price and fit them there and then, if given the go ahead.
So what happens in a service and how long does it take? Ideally, our engineers will spend at least 1½ hours and often two hours fully checking the appliance. Why so long? Check out the key points on our service checklist.
- Door function tests
- Interior cabinet tests
- Control panel function check
- Exhaust/vent hood function test/commissioning
- Electrical safety test
- Water-drain function test
- Steam generator electrical components
- Gas specific parts
- Gas analysis
- Software update
The second question is cost. Is it cost effective in the long term?
The cost of a full Rational service carried out by one of our fully qualified Rational Engineers starts from £165 plus VAT (depending on age and size of the oven) plus the cost of any parts required, which are discussed and costed before fitting. Any extra hours are charged at £44 plus VAT, in increments of 15 minutes.
A breakdown or repair callout costs £121 plus VAT inclusive of the callout and one hour’s labour, with further labour charged at £44 per hour in increments of 15 minutes. For those who feel this is too much of a layout, just add up the costs of loss of business, of reputation, of loyal customers and of the profit margin should you be unable to use your oven to provide food for customers.
Finally, we love offering our customers discounts. So save £10 per shop on our range of Rational Cleaning, Rinse and Care Tablets for the relevant ovens and Rational Grill Cleaner using the code JUL10 in our on-line store before 12th August 2017.
Commercial Kitchen is the multi-award nominated trade show for the UK’s catering equipment industry and attracts over 2,000 visitors.
Visitors and exhibitors
Exhibitors came from all parts of the industry, with over 80 leading industry suppliers showcasing innovative catering equipment, devices and services. The show attracted representatives from big names like EAT, Pret, Costa, Sainsbury’s, Subway, Tesco, Debenhams, Nando’s, Pizza Hut, Casual Dining Group, ASK Italian, Mitchells & Butlers, Zizzi, Greene King, Thwaites, Whitbread, Gate Gourmet, Merlin Entertainment Sodexo, Brakes, National Trust and Bourne Leisure.
In addition there were visitors from the widest range of public and private sector industries from independent restaurants, schools and universities, to local authorities and attractions.
There were plenty of people to see and hear at the show. Conversation sessions included Vivek Singh, executive chef and founder of The Cinnamon Collection, Claire Clark MBE and Robert Quehan, head chef at The Redwood Bistro, Bishopstoke Park.
Panel discussions covered pub kitchens, sustainability, kitchen design, the important role of equipment distributors, multi-site restaurant innovation, foodservice consultants, hospital kitchens and prison kitchens.
Rational Oven Award
The show also featured the Commercial Kitchen Innovation Challenge Awards where the top ten exhibitors to have secured the most visitor votes were invited to pitch their new innovations. The results saw four companies receiving gold awards, four being awarded silver and two taking home bronze. The Rational SelfCookingCenter XL was awarded silver.
AC Services (Southern) was delighted to see the Rational appliance recognised and appreciated for its reliability, performance and innovation.
A Show to Attend?
For those in the catering business, it’s worth considering whether to attend next year’s Catering Equipment Show. Perhaps the words of two key attendees may help.
. “We are always looking for the latest in technology to improve our kitchens’ efficiency and food quality. Commercial Kitchen is the perfect event to identify tomorrow’s technology today and network with industry experts,” Kumour Uddin, executive group chef at Anglian Country Inns .
“As someone who wants the best equipment for our teams and customers, Commercial Kitchen and the Catering Equipment Show is a good and very relevant show for me. I look forward to attending again and watching this important event grow over the coming years.” Dirk Wissmann, senior equipment buyer at Pret A Manger.
Here’s a little known fact. The great British pub actually started life as an Italian wine bar dating back almost 2,000 years! The invading Roman army in 43 AD brought us Roman pubs known as tabernae. Initially selling wine, these tabernae were built alongside Roman roads and in towns to help quench the thirst of the legionary troops.
Local people however, started to stock tabernae with ale, the native British brew and tabernae quickly became taverns. And taverns became inns, inns became public houses and the pub was born.
Today the British pub sector is huge with over 80% of pubs (nearly 50,000 outlets) independent small businesses. According to a recent report, the industry employs almost 900,000 people. While the number of jobs has increased by 29,000 from the previous year. Investment in the industry is 40% higher. Up from £1.2 billion in 2015 to £2 billion in 2016. Brewing alone sustains over 100,000 jobs.
Conditions have improved slightly over the past five years. This is driven by a stronger consumer backdrop and one-off sporting events which have accelerated sales. However, high operating costs and legislative barriers are constantly holding many operators back. Industry value added, which measures the industry’s contribution to the overall economy, is anticipated to grow at a compound annual rate of just 0.7% over the 10 years through 2021-22. The pub industry is determined to increase these figures.
Unless it has escaped everyone’s notice there is an election coming up. The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has therefore decided to publish its own manifesto for the brewing and pub industry. The manifesto outlines its priorities for the beer and pub sector to thrive over the next five years.
The BBPA calls for urgent yet sensible measures to ensure the future of the pub industry, which has been battling for a number of years. To tackle high rates of UK beer taxation, there should be a freeze in beer duty over the course of the next Parliament.
In the wake of Brexit, the manifesto calls for a free trade deal with the EU without additional paperwork! It has been reported that the beer and pub industry forks out £12.6b in tax each year. While Britons pay 40% of all EU beer duties, we drink just 12% of the beer.
A key proposal is more investment in training and skills, and access to those with the right skills including an immigration system that supports the necessary staffing levels for the sector. BBPA Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds comments:
“Our manifesto sets out the key priorities for our sector for the general election. As a vital industry employing around 900,000 people, we will be using it to engage with serving politicians and candidates throughout the campaign.”
British pubs are surviving despite the odds and have diversified into other areas, notably the serving of food. If you are a pub owner or manager with a kitchen that is constantly in use and looking to upgrade to a more reliable oven, consider a Rational oven. Then contact us to install and maintain it cost efficiently.
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.”
There has been plenty of speculation in the media recently about schools. Labour has announced an ambitious plan to put VAT on private school fees and use the money to fund free meals for all primary school children.
No doubt this is a backlash against Theresa May’s plan to bring back grammar schools but it has inevitably caused some disagreement.
According to the National Association of Head Teachers, school budgets are currently “at breaking point”. Some schools, faced with their first real-terms spending cuts in decades, are making staff redundant. There are more pupils to every class and some subjects are being scrapped.
So parents are understandably a bit sceptical about Labour blowing £1.5 billion on lunches.
New Build Schools
However, the government has already pledged to build more schools, among them 140 new free schools which are destined to create a further 70,000 new places. This comes on the back of the pledge to create more grammar schools. The budget allocated for the changes is £500 million. But existing schools may require a lot more to bring themselves up to the standard of the new ones.
Teaching unions have said that although £216 million has been set aside in maintenance and refurbishment grants, as much as £6.7 billion is needed to return all school buildings to a good condition.
The government’s £0.5B package is also earmarked for public transport costs or minibuses for children from poorer families to go to grammar schools that are between two and fifteen miles from their homes.
School Meals Investment
All government-funded schools must offer free school meals to every pupil in reception, year 1 and year 2 and the funding is and will continue to be £2.30 per meal.
For kitchens, this money can go further with a bit of imagination and the right appliance for the cooking. When buying capital items, it is always good to consider all costs not just the ticket price of the oven. A reliable and well-known model such as the Rational oven range cuts down on maintenance and enhances performance. With a maintenance plan with AC Services (Southern), schools can be assured of immediate service should anything go wrong, and a routine service on a regular basis.
There are other ways of making the money go further. Create more exciting recipes and cook from scratch using healthy ingredients such as vegetables. Reduce wastage by investing in an oven that can keep food at the correct temperature throughout the meal serving times.
There is no way of predicting the future of the educational system, but if you are involved in school meals, then at least preempt any proposed changes and make sure that you are equipped with the most appropriate and up-to-date kitchen knowledge.
Call the team at AC Services to see how we can service and maintain your Rational and Frima equipment economically on 01454 322 222.