1 Potwash sink
2 Microwave oven
3 Open-top range
5 Bratt pan
6 Combination oven
7 Ventilation canopy
8 Hot pass counter
9 Food processor
10 Pass counter
11 Refrigerated counter
12 Refrigerated saladette counter
13 Waste disposal unit
15 Bucket sink
A SUNNY bank holiday can draw up to 10,000 visitors to Woburn Safari Park near Milton Keynes in Bedfordshire, and when it comes to food, they all want the same thing. "Visitors are here to have fun and aren't interested in healthy eating while they are with us," says catering manager Alastair Crawford. "They want chips with everything. We can go through a hundred 33lb cases of frozen chips on a bank holiday."
To cope with the huge demand for chips, five twin-basket Garland fryers have been installed in the park's new kitchen which opened just before Easter. Eight times the size of the previous one, the new kitchen cost £264,000, with equipment alone adding up to £165,000. It is part of a £850,000 project to improve and expand Woburn's catering, which also includes doubling the capacity of the Safari Lodge restaurant to 200.
The kitchen was designed by Peter Holland of CDS Associates, with equipment supplied and installed by Advance Catering. During the 20 weeks it took to complete building and installation work, the park used a temporary facility supplied by Container Kitchens.
The park is closed during the week in winter and on a summer weekday there may be only 200 visitors. Consequently, most of the park's 350,000 annual visitors, predominately families with children under 12 years old, are concentrated in the school summer holidays and bank holidays, with 7.5% of the total year's trade crammed into the four days of Easter. The average food spend is £2.15 for everyone going through the gate and the menu for visitors includes an all-day breakfast, home-made chicken korma, fish and chips, steak and kidney pie and choices from a pasta bar.
In addition, Crawford has developed a significant function business, catering for up to 220 for sit-down meals and up to 400 for barbecues and informal events. This has generated sufficient year-round income to enable him to open the new kitchen with a full-time head chef, Neil Hennells. Function clients choose from a more sophisticated menu, which includes venison.
High on Crawford's list of priorities in the design of the new kitchen was the dishwash area. His existing conveyor dishwasher was too small so he opted instead for a large Meiko machine which has separate chambers for pre-rinse, washing, rinsing and drying. The dishwasher operates at two speeds, enabling it to cope better in busy periods and the drying chamber allows crockery to be reused immediately, rather than being left to air-dry.
Refrigeration is another area to benefit greatly from the redesign. Chilled space has increased enormously. Crawford explains: "We used to have four upright fridges, now we have four large walk-ins. It meanswe now have improved separation of different foods."
While freezer capacity remains the same, it is now more conveniently situated indoors, rather than the second freezer being outside in a container unit as was previously the case. "In the heat of the summer it was difficult to maintain temperatures and it was a long distance to take food into the kitchen," says Crawford. There is a separate walk-in freezer for ice-cream - replacing 10 chest freezers - run at minus 21-25ºC rather than the minus 18-21ºC used for generalstorage.
Because Crawford was determined that the new kitchen should meet not only existing hygiene standards but also future legislative requirements, he has installed a Foster blast-chiller to ensure food temperatures are quickly brought down before storage. For the same reason there is a Monika system from Gamble Food Control that monitors not only the temperature of fridges and freezers, but also the wash and rinse temperatures on the dishwasher, the temperatureof food on the hot counter and burger bar and thetemperature of deliveries. A separate raw preparation area is not used much for the day-to-day catering for visitors but does come in useful when preparing for functions.
The improved hygiene measures have also been applied to waste disposal. There are now two Hobart waste-disposal units - one in the raw prep area and one in the dishwashing area - which between them cope with 99% of food waste. "I wanted to get away from 'wet waste' being kept on site," says Crawford. "In the past our waste went into skips which the squirrels used to raid. Now we're virtually a squirrel-free zone." n