As Pelican’s commercial equipment specialist, Jo Leech gets involved in everything from sourcing individual light equipment items to planning major catering kitchen fittings.
Jo has 20 years of expertise, with early experience at a company that serviced kitchen equipment, before getting involved in the design, purchasing and installation of commercial catering kitchens for Pelican. And while keeping abreast of the latest developments in this part of the market, Jo worries that busy catering managers can make costly mistakes by simply buying goods in boxes, missing out on vital impartial advice and support service.
Will it fit?
“Everyone’s got a budget – I get that – but while the cheaper kit is unlikely to last as long, sometimes that’s what is required. I usually give a client three options. My job is to provide impartial advice, and do due diligence – and to stop anyone spending on equipment that is not fit for purpose.”
“It can be a bit of a minefield for some catering teams, as they don’t buy heavy equipment regularly – in some cases, it can be only a few times during the caterer’s working life.”
“In my time, I have seen plenty of instances where inexperience can catch catering teams out. It’s not usual for a large double door fridge to be delivered, only to discover it cannot fit through the door. A similar problem crops up with cookers, leaving them to be dismantled in the car park before they can be installed.”
Jo also points out other common considerations when buying equipment:
- Ensure you have adequate gas or electric supply for the new equipment, as upgrades sometimes demand more than the units they are replacing.
- New, combination cooking equipment can increasingly do more than one job, so kitchens can potentially do away with old equipment, and save space.
- Don’t forget about compliance, as it is not unusual to discover that air extract hoods, fans and filters also need upgrading to meet current regulations.
“One complicated piece of equipment that can make a big difference to a kitchen’s efficiency, is a large dishwasher. I feel sorry for catering managers who are tasked to buy a new dishwasher – it’s a very big responsibility, spending more than £10,000. I have helped clients to buy and install dishwashers and before I even start looking for the solution, I need to fully understand what exactly the client is looking to achieve. I start by asking a lot of questions about the scale of the washing challenge, and what will need cleaning and so on. I then work closely with several key suppliers, and arrange a site visit to ensure we design an efficient layout of machinery and associated stainless tables.”
“For me, it is about helping the client to find the correct equipment that meets all their requirements – and that includes fitting and installation! Plus, I provide full support service after the purchase to resolve any queries or outstanding issues.”
A turnkey solution
“I am lucky as I support a wide range of hospitality operations across education, leisure and healthcare and get involved in exciting new projects. I have just supported Plumpton College launching their new café & farm shop in Brighton.”
“Jo has helped us to source commercial equipment on a few occasions before, so when we were faced with the major project of ‘One Garden Brighton’, we got back in touch. Part of the project involved the design and fitting out of the of the production kitchen of the ‘One Garden Kitchen’ to a fully functioning café and restaurant, so we asked Jo to project manage it for us. She guided us every step of the way, including sourcing the right equipment for our chefs – even down to the cups, saucers, knives and forks(!) and I must say the process went smoothly, was completed on time and we are extremely happy with the outcome. I would love to welcome all of you to come and see it for yourself, as we are extremely proud of what we have achieved. Jo and her team also worked with our main design company to fit out the ‘One Garden Market’, our show case for local produce and our own Plumpton Estate meats, cheeses and wine.”
Tim Hook, Head of Catering & Hospitality at Plumpton College, and Interim Commercial Manager for One Garden Brighton. www.onegardenbrighton.com