Tag Archives: service


Cruise Control Service

Meamina Rational oven serviceSometimes 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

Rational cook stationHelen 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.”


Published Date: 16th May 2017
Category: Blog, Case Study, News, Ovens, Rational
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Money for School Meals?

School meals fundingThere 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.


Published Date: 11th April 2017
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News, Ovens, Rational
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Services with a Difference

Gloucester Services OutsideGloucester Services on the M5 is not a normal service station.

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.

Local Produce

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.

Hidden Gem

Gloucester Services InsideVisually, 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.


Published Date: 31st January 2017
Category: Blog, Case Study, News
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Get Ready for Christmas Service

Rational oven cleaning and pre- Christmas serviceAs I write, we have 83 days 4 hours 48 minutes and 33 seconds until Santa comes down the chimney. That’s 1996 hours in total, which doesn’t sound like a lot of time when you consider what you have to do before Christmas. Check for yourself on the Christmas Countdown Clock to see how the hours are whittling away…

For caterers, the countdown to the festive season has already begun. Restaurants are already displaying their Christmas menus, and advent calendars and chocolate treats have replaced suntan lotion and mosquito repellent on the shelves of the supermarkets.

So there is no better the time to book a service for your Rational oven in time for Christmas! Here are AC Services (Southern), we are more than happy to help and we offer a range of packages to suit any budget.

Over the festive period, the last thing you want is for your oven to play up or pack in. Regular cleaning is simply not enough to ensure perfect performance time and time again. For instance, even the smallest amount of grease or food residue can accumulate and unless it is cleaned thoroughly on a daily basis, this can cause long-term problems, so why put your Christmas service at risk.

Annual Service & Maintenance Contracts

There simply is no substitute for regular maintenance. Being on a low budget is no excuse as the initial outlay easily beats the costs incurred when an oven fails suddenly. The easiest way to prevent a breakdown of either yourself or your appliance is to invest in an Annual Maintenance Contract.

Preventative maintenance visits can highlight potential problems, which can be rectified before they cause a breakdown. This is in addition to our 24-hour response and in most instances, first time fix. We can offer two preventative maintenance visits per year working to a comprehensive schedule.

Rational Oven Maintenance Plans

As well as booking for an early service before Christmas, why not consider one of our preventative maintenance plans:

Gold Maintenance Plan

  • Designed for Rational ovens under 10 years old
  • A comprehensive and increased level of parts and labour cover
  • 24 hour response time; breakdown calls attended 7 days per week
  • Replace most parts that fail under the maintenance period up to the value of £1,000 per visit (genuine and original Rational parts used and some exclusions do apply)
  • Two preventative maintenance visits per year at six monthly intervals.

Silver Maintenance Plan

  • Designed to cover labour costs for those customers, who have a limited budget,
  • 24 hour response time
  • Breakdown calls attended 7 days per week
  • Two preventative maintenance visits per year at six monthly intervals
  • First time fix policy
  • Work to an agreed budget on spare parts, when required

Platinum Maintenance Plan

  • Available for our customers, who require an individual plan to meet their Rational oven servicing needs
  • Individually tailored to meet the specific maintenance needs of rational oven owners

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 service needs. Talk to one of the team on 01454 322222. Whether that’s for a Christmas service or to discuss a year round maintenance plan to save money and worry.


Published Date: 4th October 2016
Category: Blog, Cleaning, News, Rational, Service plan
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Catering for Lambrook School

Lambrook SchoolThe 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.

Service Life

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!


Published Date: 14th June 2016
Category: Blog, Case Study, News, Ovens, Service plan
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Food Trends 2016

Food trends 2016 oystersWhat is the catering business looking forward to foodwise in 2016?

It’s no secret that food trends come and go depending on the seasons, the availability of certain food groups and the imagination of new chefs.

Quinoa and kale were the superfoods last year: for the majority of us, this comprised learning how to pronounce the word quinoa (gratitude is given to the television advert that educated us).

But this year it seems that it is not just food that will be the attraction, it is also the way we order and eat. A huge trend at the moment is letting guests order food and drink from their tables or beforehand using their smart appliances: tablets or phones. You order a meal, go to the restaurant and there it is waiting for you. The benefit to the restaurant is less downtime.

Even more innovative is location-based technology or face-recognition software, which can tell a waiter exactly where you’re standing. This involves science such as wearables like Google Glass. With face-recognition software, a server can know them names of everyone at a table. A good thing? Maybe not if you genuinely don’t want to be recognised.

Oyster Card

Let’s get back to real food trends: apparently, oysters are hot this year. From being the food of luxury, oysters are now significantly cheaper, thanks to bays, inlets and tidal basins being detoxed so oyster farmers are reseeding old oyster beds and discovering new ones.

I think we are now all tired of kale, but worry not, root vegetables are up and coming. Celery root, parsnips and kohlrabi (German turnip) are being put on the menu in various forms: fried, mashed, pureed, or even gratined!

And seaweed is becoming more popular, not the Chinese version from the local takeaway I hasten to add, but as a food group it is being seen particularly in America as a packaged snack.

My particular favourite, purely because I genuinely cannot see how it will catch on is vegetable yogurt, with flavours including butternut squash, beet, carrot, and tomato, garlic dip; and cucumber, olive oil and mint leaves.

Keep your eyes open for clean eating, food made with ingredients that are free of additives, antibiotics, and other artificial components.

“The trend is towards food and beverages that are considered wholesome and real,” says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant analyst for market research firm The NPD Group. This concept also includes adding authentic foods, such as ethnic, regional, and local ingredients.

The Return of Bread

Finally, it’s good news for bread. The gluten-free campaign has been hugely successful and popular, with bread the major food item to suffer from the trend. However, it appears that bread is about to get a big revival as authentic, ancient grain-containing loaves are suddenly in style again. Bread comes in many shapes and forms: artisan toasts, bagels and babka (sweet yeast cakey thing), and gourmet pizzas and flatbreads and these have also given the bread renaissance a boost.

Regardless of the food trends the secret to good cooking is a good oven. Here at AC Services (Southern) we encourage everyone who owns a Rational oven to get it regular serviced and maintained so that whatever the trend, you can produce contemporary food for all.


Published Date: 1st March 2016
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News
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AC Services Southern Company Update

AC Services Southern Office Team PhotoIt’s been a hectic, yet controlled few months at AC Services Southern. The excesses of Christmas, following by Valentine’s Day have been circumnavigated successfully by the team, with plenty of Rational ovens serviced, fixed and repaired.

The most exciting news is the arrival of a new engineer, David! Coming from a catering background, he begins work this week covering the Gloucestershire area. Although he has ten years in the catering industry, he still has to undergo the extensive training that AC Services insists for its engineers.

David will be trained comprehensively as with all of our engineers,” comments Helen Hagger, Managing Director at AC Services Southern. “This will involve an intense programme of learning and on-the-job experience, travelling around with other existing service engineers to find out exactly what is required for the job.”

Right Man for the Job

David has been hired as a replacement for an engineer who left a year ago, and according to Helen, the length of time taken to find a replacement is testament to the company’s strict guidelines on recruitment.

We don’t just want to employ anyone who applies for the job,” she explains. “The candidate has to have the right background, the right attitude and the right aptitude to meet all of our demands. It’s not a simple 9 to 5 job: our engineers are on call constantly, and with the variables of the weather and traffic, it can make for a long and arduous day.

With a host of events coming up later in the year, the team are geared up to service and maintain their clients’ appliances. “We have Mother’s Day and Easter within weeks of each other, which is always a busy time for the catering industry,” continues Helen. “In addition, we have the supplementary calendar events, including the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and of course, the Rio Olympic Games.”

“These events pose a challenge to catering establishments to ensure that the food and sustenance they provide are readily available at the times they need to be. So we have pre-empted the rush by contacting all of our customers and reminding them to service their Rational ovens in advance of any big events.”

Excellent Start for AC Services Southern

2016 has started extremely well for the AC Services Southern team, and with the worse of the winter months we hope are over, there is a general relief that this time, they were spared the extremes of the weather.

Four years ago, when the country experienced one of the heaviest snowfalls, we were still able to pull out all of the stops and help our customers with their problems,” concludes Helen. “This proved our willingness and capability to go the extra mile, literally in some cases, to provide the best service possible.”

If you need your oven serviced or repaired, simply contact AC Services Southern and make an appointment for an engineer to visit. If David turns up, be gentle!


Published Date: 23rd February 2016
Category: Blog, News, Rational
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AC Services Christmas Opening Times is coming….

AC Services Christmas Opening HoursChristmas has finally come around with the big day a week away, and here at AC Services (Southern) we are eagerly awaiting the start of the holidays and some much-needed time off for fun and laughs! So these are AC Services Christmas opening times:

21st December – normal opening hours – 8.30am to 5pm

22nd December – normal opening hours

23rd December – normal opening hours

24th December – closing early for mince pies and mulled wine. If you have any problems, make sure it’s before 3pm please!

25th December – we’re afraid you are on your own.

26th December – couldn’t move if we tried: far too much turkey

27th December – engineer on call. Treat him nicely, he’s probably still recovering from the above

28th December – office closed, but an engineer will be on call

29th December – normal opening hours- 8.30-5.00

30th December – normal opening hours

31st December – normal opening hours. Although engineers will be looking for a party to gatecrash if they need to work late!

1st January – closed.

An engineer will be on call 2nd and 3rd January for emergencies and it’s back to normal working hours on Monday 4th January.

All you have to do in an emergency is telephone 01454 322222 and press the appropriate option so we can help you as quickly as we can. Or leave a message, if not urgent, for when the office is next open.


For stock parts and cleaning products, the last date for guaranteed Christmas delivery for an order to be placed is Tuesday 22nd December at 5pm. We recommend that you CHECK your stock now, to make sure that you have everything you need, because we know it’s not funny when you run out.


Published Date: 15th December 2015
Category: Blog, News, Ovens, Rational
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Prima with FRIMA

AC Services FRIMA service partnerFRIMA began life in France in 1938. In 1985 the company produced the FRIMAX®, the first multifunctional cooking appliance based on contact heat. Building on the success of the quality of its products and the advanced technology employed in their manufacture, in 2014 FRIMA installed its 15,000th VarioCooking Center® , demonstrating the popularity of the range to an international market.

In 1992 FRIMA joined Rational and today the emphasis is still firmly focussed on excellence in the cooking arena.

In 2008 the FRIMA UK sales team was established and, in the same year, A C Services became a service partner with the company.

According to FRIMA UK MD, Graham Kille, the future is bright indeed for the London-based company, which has seen a 50% increase in sales in the past year. “We are growing rapidly, with a sales team of five, which we are expecting to expand,” he comments. “The UK is catching on to the fact that a multifunctional kitchen is the way forward in all sectors, and that the VarioCooking Center can enhance cooking results.”

Perfect Cooking

Using VarioCooking Control®, the appliance’s built-in cooking intelligence, daily work is simplified and time-consuming routine chores, such as constant monitoring of the food and temperature adjustments, are eliminated. Boiling, frying and deep frying takes place all in one unit, up to four times as fast and with 40% less power consumption. As the company’s website says, “The cooking process is always matched to the food, however big or small the item, and however many portions!”

FRIMA has a wide range of clients, from primary schools to sports stadiums to Michelin starred restaurants. Currently the most successful sector is in education. “Schools and colleges have really taken on board the value of the VarioCooking Center experience,” he continues. “For example, the cost efficiency is up there alongside energy efficiency: why buy a separate chip fryer when the VarioCooking Center has one included?

Pioneering modern cooking technology and energy efficiency is FRIMA’s aim. “It’s all about embracing smaller footprints in the kitchen, as well as reducing energy consumption,” explains Graham. “And there is a growing realisation that there is no better way to do this than with a VarioCooking Center.”

FRIMA offers live cooking demonstrations across the UK to present and road test the equipment. The company also offers a free four week trial, in customers’ own kitchens, so they can see for themselves what a difference a FRIMA appliance can make.

At AC Services we are delighted to be partnering FRIMA as a service partner and helping the company to grow. Like an increasing number of UK chefs, we believe the VarioCooking Center offers the most advanced, efficient and cost effective way to reduce the carbon footprint in the kitchen, while enhancing the quality of the food.


Published Date: 8th December 2015
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News
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Wake Up Get Out of Bed….

A C Services Office Team PhotoIt’s another typical day at the A C Services office, between Bath and Bristol, but there’s the irony. There is no such thing as a typical day in this company.

The ethos behind the scenes focuses purely on keeping the customer happy, even down to staff arrival times: staff arrive on a staggered basis from 8 am until the last person locks the doors at 5.15. Even then, customers can still contact us by leaving a message to be dealt with first thing the next morning, or if the situation is an emergency, to ring a number which goes straight through to MD, Helen Hagger.

Helen is well used to dealing with crises and dramas: as she explains, customer panic is commonplace. “Just this morning a contract customer had an emergency which turned out not to be the oven but I was able to have an engineer call him immediately to help,” she comments.


The A C Services office team comprises Carolyn, Service Manager, Kelly, Administration Assistant and Vicky, Accounts Manager. Their job is to deal with incoming and ongoing issues. This is a process ably assisted by the installation of a new phone system installed to help with fielding calls to the correct people. Note: Greensleeves is not played on hold.

The team have various daily chores: these include:

• Checking emails regularly throughout the day
• Answering calls comprising warranty breakdowns (which we have to attend within 24 hours), contract breakdowns, new customer breakdowns
• Planning servicing bookings
• Ordering spare parts/cleaning and chemical products

Logistically, routing and rerouting engineers is an essential and demanding part of the job. Google maps is used a fair amount to work out best route for calls for the engineer, but sometimes they have to travel significant distances to their next job just to answer a warranty call within the time period. It’s the job of the team in the office to coordinate the engineers and make sure that whenever and wherever they are needed, they turn up on time!


Of course, there are other daily events such as invoicing, statements, estimates, account queries, account openings, sending back warranty parts to Rational, and so on, that also keep the office team occupied.

The rule is that no two days are ever the same, as Helen continues: “Last week was our year end so each engineer was called in to carry out a van stock take. This week we have had to do a store stock take. Next week, who knows?” she comments.

One thing is certain, there’s never a dull day at the A C Services office.


Published Date: 20th October 2015
Category: Blog, News, Rational
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