A fire in June last year at the New Covent Garden Soup Company factory, White City, London, meant a double blow for the company: a pile of ashes instead of a workplace and no soup for their most famous customer, the Duchess of York.
Disaster loomed. The fire destroyed the new product development kitchen and food stores, severing a vital link in the production line. But the show had to go on, and a temporary solution was found with a mini kitchen from PKL Group UK.
Before the mini kitchen was installed, quality control staff took items of equipment from the PKL's summer range home to test, but this was causing costly production delays. Looking around for a speedy solution, new product development manager Alison Adcock discovered a PKL temporary mini kitchen on a site nearby and so contacted the company. This led to a swifter installation of a mini kitchen at the White City factory, a saving on time and effort for staff.
"Time is money," explains new product development and marketing assistant manager Sarah Randell. "Thanks to the temporary kitchen, we lost only two days from our production cycle."
As part of the cycle, new soup and gravy recipes are tasted and assessed for suitability in the kitchen before factory production. Most of the cooking is done on a six-burner range, with the oven used for roasting vegetables.
Refrigerators are important because fresh products are bought in daily. A freezer is also used to test soups for storage time, while a microwave is used to assess how well new recipes reheat.
One year on, Randell is pleased with the quality of the equipment and how well it works. But there are drawbacks.
Lack of space has meant a problem for the product tasters. The original kitchen could accommodate a table and four chairs, but present cramped conditions have forced tastings to take place elsewhere. This has taken a positive twist, however, and the company is now rethinking the design of the new purpose-built kitchen.
There is, as yet, no date for the completion of the new kitchen, but it will be larger than before with extended workbench and refrigeration space.
Although lack of space has been a concern, Randell would be happy to hire another mini kitchen. In particular, she praises ventilation, equipment and hygiene performance. But most importantly, the mini kitchen has kept up the flow of product to customer at a difficult time without orders having to be cancelled.
Continued production has also kept the Duchess of York in soup. Seen recently at a product tasting, she was heard to exclaim: "Oh! Covent Garden Soup, how yummy! I buy masses of it."